What We Do

Water Defense is rooted in the belief that access to clean safe water is a fundamental human right. Our work aims to protect this right for everyone regardless of income level, race, national origin, beliefs, or location. We prioritize unbiased data collection and seek to leverage that information to protect aquatic resources and equal access to clean water.

Water Defense conducts water testing activities throughout the United States, gathering data and raising public awareness about the major issues affecting water and public health. We respond to water contamination events by deploying an investigative team on the ground to collect water samples and document contamination.

We collect water samples using two different methods. The first is a traditional “grab” sample, in which pre-cleaned, EPA certified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) and general sampling containers, approved for metal sampling, are filled with water, sealed, and labeled, and sent to an accredited independent laboratory with proper chain of custody documentation. The second water sampling method utilizes a new technology called the “WaterBug.” The WaterBug was designed to collect an integrated and cumulative sample of contaminated water over time. We believe that this technology serves to average out the episodic changes in water contamination concentrations inherent in many bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, streams, oceans, as well as municipal water supplies, irrigation systems, and in premise plumbing fixtures. The WaterBug was also designed to detect the presence of contamination that might otherwise remain undetected by traditional grab sampling methods. Water Defense uses the WaterBug in concert with traditional grab sampling methodology in order to generate a more detailed and comprehensive measurement of water contamination.

Once our investigative team has collected water samples, documented our sampling methodology and completed chain-of-custody reports, the water samples are transported to ALS Environmental, an independent and accredited water-testing laboratory. ALS relies on well-established and validated testing methodologies, including those recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Laboratory testing protocols of WaterBug samples are designed by Water Defense to ensure the reliability of data produced and minimize variability across samples. For more information about ALS testing of WaterBug samples, please visit our page on Lab Testing of WaterBug Samples.

Upon receipt of the analytical reports of our tested samples from the laboratory, we work with our scientific advisors to review, interpret and release the data to the community and other stakeholders. Water Defense is proud to work with a highly-trained and multidisciplinary group of scientists with varied expertise. While community-based citizen-scientists provide a critical role for making science happen, we also recognize the value of traditionally-educated science professionals for guiding experimental design and data interpretation. Water Defense prioritizes transparency and the public release of unadulterated and complete lab reports, along with scientifically-vetted statements concerning potential public health and environmental impacts. We continually offer an invitation for individuals and organizations to join us at any stage of our work, whether it be collecting samples, interpretation of laboratory reports, or public dissemination of information.