UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Jeffrey Hadachek, University of California, Davis

The Costs of Nitrate Pollution in Drinking Water

Date and Location

Thursday, November 10, 2022, 4:10 PM - 5:30 PM
ARE Library Conference Room, 4101 Social Sciences and Humanities


Nitrate contamination of drinking water is a widespread environmental concern and threatens human health. The magnitude of the environmental health consequences depend on an individuals' ability to avoid exposure. This paper uses an event-study framework to uncover the heterogeneity in avoidance behavior following Safe Drinking Water Act nitrate violations. Using weekly store-level scanner data, I estimate that consumers spend approximately $4.7 million annually on bottled water and soda to avoid nitrate contaminated drinking water. However, consumers in resource-constrained areas exhibit substantially less protective behavior. This leads to 143 additional infant deaths per year relative to areas with less-costly access to safe drinking water. These results underscore substantial costs from nitrate pollution and that these costs are disproportionately distributed to those with less ability to protect themselves.

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