Sustainable use of water resources continues to be a challenge across the globe. This is in part due to the complex set of physical and social behaviors that interact to influence water management from local to global scales. Analyses of water resources have been conducted using a variety of techniques, including qualitative evaluations of media narratives. This study aims to augment these methods by leveraging computational and quantitative techniques from the social sciences focused on text analyses. Specifically, we use natural language processing methods to investigate a large corpus (approx. 1.8M) of newspaper articles spanning approximately 35 years (1982–2017) for insights into human-nature interactions with water. Focusing on local and regional United States publications, our analysis demonstrates important dynamics in water-related dialogue about drinking water and pollution to other critical infrastructures, such as energy, across different parts of the country. Our assessment, which looks at water as a system, also highlights key actors and sentiments surrounding water. Extending these analytical methods could help us further improve our understanding of the complex roles of water in current society that should be considered in emerging activities to mitigate and respond to resource conflicts and climate change.