Clean and plentiful water provides the foundation for prosperous communities. We rely on clean water to survive, yet right now we are heading towards a water crisis. Changing climate patterns are threatening lakes and rivers, and key sources that we tap for drinking water are being overdrawn or tainted with pollution. NRDC experts are helping to secure safe and sufficient water for people and the environment by:

  • Promoting water efficiency strategies to help decrease the amount of water wasted;
  • Protecting our water from pollution by defending the Clean Water Act and advocating for solutions like green infrastructure;
  • Helping prepare cities, counties and states for water-related challenges they will face as a result of climate change; and
  • Ensuring that waterways have enough water to support vibrant aquatic ecosystems.

Protecting Clean Water

effluent draining from water pipe

Dirty water is the world's biggest health risk, and continues to threaten both quality of life and public health in the United States. When water from rain and melting snow runs off roofs and roads into our rivers, it picks up toxic chemicals, dirt, trash and disease-carrying organisms along the way. Many of our water resources also lack basic protections, making them vulnerable to pollution from factory farms, industrial plants, and activities like fracking. This can lead to drinking water contamination, habitat degradation and beach closures. NRDC is working to protect our water from pollution by:

  • Drawing on existing protections in the Clean Water Act, and working to ensure that the law's pollution control programs apply to all important waterways, including headwater streams and wetlands, which provide drinking water for 117 million Americans;
  • Improving protections to reduce pollutants like bacteria and viruses, which threaten Americans' health and well being; and
  • Establishing new pollution limits for top problem areas, such as sources of runoff and sewage overflows.

» Learn more about the Obama administration's Clean Water Protection Rule
   and submit your public comment in support of clean water.
» Check out our guide on water quality at vacation beaches
» 12 simple things you can do to reduce water pollution

Promoting Water Efficiency

water efficiency

Despite the many existing pressures on our water resources, there are cost-effective solutions that will allow us to transform our relationship with water. To address increasing water scarcity in many places in the nation, NRDC is working to promote investments and policies that increase water use efficiency and decrease water waste, such as:

  • Adopting sensible standards for efficient appliances, buildings, and irrigation;
  • Supporting cost-effective investments by utilities to help customers save water; and
  • Improving pricing structures to save both water and money.

» How stormwater runoff solutions can improve efficiency and water quality
» Find out how changes in wastewater pricing could save you water and money
» Use our interactive tool to see how different California communities are planning for the future

Water and Climate Change

drought landscape

From more severe and frequent droughts to unprecedented flooding, many of the most profound and immediate impacts of climate change will relate to water. More than one-third of all counties in the lower 48 states will face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as a result of global warming. Other impacts will include sea level rise, saltwater intrusion, harm to fisheries and more frequent and intense storm events. To help communities prepare, NRDC is creating tools that help the public and government officials to better understand and anticipate the water-related impacts of climate change at a state, county, and city level. We also promote ways to reduce wasted energy resulting from inefficient water collection, treatment and distribution.

» Is your state ready for the water impacts of climate change?
» Find out how cities can prepare for water shortages, flooding, and other impacts
» Learn more about climate change and water solutions

Preserving Water Ecosystems


Fish, birds and wildlife depend on clean water, just as people do. NRDC works to protect and restore important waterways to ensure that there is enough water flowing to keep these ecosystems intact and functioning. In the San Francisco Bay-Delta -- the largest estuary on the west coast -- we are stopping unsustainable water withdrawals that threaten endangered fish species and their habitat through a range of litigation tools. We are also continuing to restore water flows to California's second largest river, the San Joaquin River. Through implementation of the historic San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement, an agreement won after 18 years of litigation brought by a coalition of conservation and fishing groups, and led by NRDC, the settlement will restore water flows and reintroduce salmon to the San Joaquin.

» Find out how California's Bay-Delta water management threatens salmon populations
» Learn more about the San Joaquin River Restoration Program

Get Updates and Alerts

See the latest issue >

Stay Connected With NRDC

  • Flickr
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Facebook

Water Explained

Clean and plentiful water is the cornerstone of prosperous communities. Yet as we enter the 21st century, swelling demand and changing climate patterns are draining rivers and aquifers and pollution is threatening the quality of what remains. NRDC is integrating our expertise in pollution prevention, water efficiency and climate change to sustain America's precious water resources, working to advance smart water efficiency policies to ensure that communities get the water they need while keeping our lakes, rivers, and streams full and healthy.

NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs

Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.

Donate now >

Share | |
Find NRDC on