Health-based drinking water violations affect about 1 in 12 Americans annually, the benefits of drinking water regulation are not well understood. I exploit plausibly exogenous variation in water quality violation timing to estimate the impacts on avoidance behavior and child outcomes. Using purchases of bottled water and common stomach remedies, emergency room visits for gastrointestinal illness, and school absences, I provide a comprehensive calculation of costs associated with poor drinking water quality. Individuals avoid the negative health impacts of coliform bacteria violations only when informed immediately. Timely public notification is a cost-effective way to induce avoidance behavior and protect health.

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