This ever-present reality means that in some places groundwater is being pumped more rapidly than it can be replenished with rain, snowmelt and irrigation runoff. So, as Californians stare into the face of a fourth year of unrelenting drought, costly alternatives of procuring water have been implemented.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District has proposed an 8 percent permanent rate increase for the purposes of covering pipe replacement cost more expeditiously, and just passed a 25 percent surcharge to incentivize water conservation and deal with the higher costs of providing water during a drought. While this is understandable, water use is not indicative of financial status, thus drought surcharges won’t be a uniform increase for us all.

The rates are structured to be more severe for high water users, but families like mine, who live at or below the poverty line, cannot afford to pay these increases. So how is this new plan equitable?

There are sustainable solutions to fixing the problem of water shortages, and we should explore them. If we can find groundwater on Mars, then why can’t we find sustainable systems to alleviate our water problem on Earth, in the Bay Area?

What hurts me most is that those most impacted are our children. The combination of being poor, the water surcharge and general rate increase leave us to explain why there is so little food in the fridge.

“We have to pay the water bill this month sweetie.” When my partner’s child poses the question, “I thought water was free, Aerin?” I have to explain to her that it is not, and it comes at a heavier cost than ever before.

Aerin Monroe lives in East Oakland, where he works and attends Merritt College. To comment, submit your letter to the editor at