In the region of Lavalle, water from the ground is naturally salty and contains arsenic meaning that well water is not suitable to drink. After construction of the dam, those living in the community had to drink the well water, or buy bottled water. In 2016, more than 10 years after the construction of the dam, the government constructed an aqueduct to bring water to the region. However, there are problems that persist.
The most ironic problem is that the water the aqueduct brings still contains arsenic. According to some individuals, the government has told them to filter out the arsenic, but when the community asks what to do with the arsenic that is filtered out, the response was to dump the arsenic into the wells. Doing this would only aggravate the problem at hand.
The Huarpes living in Lavalle are spread throughout various communities and those that are further from the aqueduct find that they often only have water eight to ten days out of the month even though they are paying a flat monthly fee of $15o Argentine pesos. If you were to exchange this for U.S. dollars it would be about $10 however, in the context of their economy, especially considering the recent detriment of economic resources, this is a sum that some families choose not to pay for varying reasons.
Information about the health effects of consuming low concentrations of arsenic for extended periods of time can be found here. This link is to a scientific study conducted in the United States. The threshold in the United States for arsenic concentration in water is 10µg/L, however, studies suggest that chronic exposure at levels even lower than 10µg/L can be detrimental.
An estimated 40 million United Statesians are at increased risk for various diseases due to their exposure to arsenic from the water they consume. The study finds “long-term low-level exposure to arsenic was significantly correlated to poorer scores in global cognition, processing speed, and immediate memory.” The detriments in cognitive function shown by the study are thought to be risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, a cruel disease where patients lose memory that to date has no cure.