In addition to the acute health risks associated with the Central Valley’s water contamination, communities face the disproportionate economic burden that stems from a lack of basic urban water infrastructure. Residents are often forced to pay twice for water, having to purchase bottled water to supplement the unsafe tap water delivered to their homes. These drinking water costs alone can amount to as much as 10% of a household’s income (Pacific Institute, The Human Costs of Nitrate-Contaminated Drinking Water in the San Joaquin Valley, 2011).
As a result, the most impoverished residents of these communities at times must choose between buying bottled water or risking exposure to contaminated water so they can afford other necessities such as food and medicine. In disadvantaged communities where residents have been successful in installing modern water treatment and storage facilities, families struggle with the exorbitant water bills that accompany their infrastructure improvements. Consequently, some Central Valley communities have been forced to shut down their new water systems due to their inability to pay for operation and maintenance.