Water Defense: providing access to safe drinking water

Access to clean water is a fundamental human right, but this right is being denied to, and withheld from, millions of people around the world. USAID estimates that 2.1 billion people lack access to safe water, negatively impacting the health, education, and economic opportunities of affected people. Domestically, data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reveal that only nine U.S. states are reporting safe levels of lead in their water supply. The Flint Water Crisis, which endured the worst contamination of drinking water ever recorded, increased national consciousness of this issue, but water contamination is an everyday concern for many U.S. citizens.

Drinking water can be contaminated not only by physical causes, such as chemical spills, oil drilling, or agricultural runoff, but also through the mismanagement, neglect, and prejudice of agencies and people in charge of drinking water resources. When drinking water does become contaminated, the effects are often felt hardest by poor communities or communities of color. Those communities naturally lose confidence in government, and so are eager for reliable information from sources they can trust. 

LDF grantee Water Defense fills in the information gap by providing high-quality water testing in areas experiencing a water quality crisis. The testing data is then made available to local citizens whose drinking water has been affected. Once interpreted in an accessible manner and armed with trustworthy data, residents are empowered to hold industry and government accountable for remediating current drinking water contamination and preventing future contamination. 

Water Defense further supports local citizens in affected areas by undertaking high profile, targeted outreach in traditional media to shine a strong spotlight on industry and governmental officials responsible for the problem, hold them publicly accountable, and create enormous pressure to take action. This work has a positive snowball effect: more informed citizens, more coverage, more demands for action—and more results. 

While significant progress has been made towards cleaning up our nation’s water supply and increasing access to safe drinking water, much work remains. Old infrastructure continues to contaminate water with lead, and increased industrial and agricultural production threaten water quality throughout the country. LDF is proud to support Water Defense, who through effective testing and its grassroots approach, creates opportunities for local citizens to have a voice in their local governments.

Last updated November 19, 2017

Through collaborative partnerships, we support innovative projects that protect vulnerable wildlife from extinction, while restoring balance to threatened ecosystems and communities. Our work is divided into six main program areas – Wildlands Conservation, Oceans Conservation, Climate Change, Indigenous Rights, Transforming California, and Innovative Solutions.

Explore Our Programs

Sign up to receive updates about our work.

Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing. Please check the box below if you would like to hear from us via email:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please check out our privacy policy.

Check out our privacy policy for details on how we protect and manage your submitted data.