This article examines civic commitments and legal frameworks that have defended public access to water by recognizing its cultural value. In Caxambu, Brazil, the local population has collected mineral water from natural springs for centuries. The water’s use is embedded in local social and cultural practices. However, over the last thirty years the water sources have become increasingly threatened by commercial and industrial interests. The local government and civic society have responded to the threat by creating protected areas and their efforts have culminated in the legal recognition of cultural intangible heritage as the basis for preserving water quality and ensuring access for future generations.