Location: Sandbranch, TX 
Region: Dallas County, TX
Founders/leadership: Tonnette Yarbough Byrd; Jacqui Patterson

Believe it or not, there are folks living just 14 miles from Dallas, TX — one of the wealthiest cities in the world — who do not have access to clean, running water.

In 1878, emancipated from enslavement, Allen Hawthorne and 11 other people from Louisiana collectively purchased this parcel southeast of Dallas — as a homestead, and to provide opportunity and financial security for their families. A Freedmen’s Settlement, it was called Sandbranch — so-named for its abundance of sand and gravel, just one of the area’s abundant natural resources. Like so many Black and low income communities, those resources were exploited for industrial and agricultural uses that rarely benefited the community. Today, a dwindling population of residents faces pressure to move from pollution, a lack of infrastructure, and unfair zoning that prohibits many essential capital improvements.

Sandbranch is an underdog. In its 142-year history, the community has never had running water. It lacks a sewage system and its groundwater became contaminated in the 1980s. Living in a waterless town means living in a place without fire hydrants or a way to put out fires, leaving homes and businesses destroyed. There is no trash pick-up and residents must burn their garbage — adding to the air pollution caused by adjacent cement plants. Every drop of drinkable water in Sandbranch is shipped in. The closest grocery store is seven miles away; the closest health care facility is 35 miles away. There are no streetlights and few signs. Yet, Sandbranch is rising.

Today, 100 intrepid Sandbranch residents — property owners and taxpayers — are determined to make their community a healthy and thriving place to call home. They’re led by the Sandbranch Planning Committee, whose first priority is to provide drinking water directly to 25 households through the cutting edge, regenerative technology of Hydropanels — a solar-powered system that extracts clean drinking water from the air.

In addition to water, they plan to increase access to fresh food, equitable healthcare, opportunity, and basic infrastructure (streetlights, trash removal, sewerage, signage). With help from MSC, the Chisholm Legacy Project, and the Until Justice Corporation, the affiliated Sandbranch Revitalization Fund centers on water justice, food justice, and land justice — all rooted in a Just Transition.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is sponsoring Hydropanels for two homes while working to raise additional funds and urge other large environmental organizations to make similar investments in Sandbranch and other frontline communities struggling to access clean drinking water.

Read more about Sandbranch and the intersectionality of American water on the Move Blog.

Read more about the legacy of Sandbranch on the Move Blog.

Learn more about how the Sandbranch Revitalization Fund, a MSC Special Interest Fund, is helping to shift philanthropy on the Move Blog.