Sheyda EsnaashariDrinking Water Program Director

Sheyda Esnaashari

Originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, Sheyda Esnaashari (she/her) now lives and works in Washington, D.C., on Anacostan, Nacotchtank, Piscataway and Pamunkey lands.

Sheyda joined River Network in 2019. As Drinking Water Program Director, she leads the organization’s efforts to support groups working on access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water nationwide. Prior to joining River Network, Sheyda worked on clean water issues as a Water Policy Strategist for the Alliance for the Great Lakes in Chicago, IL. Previously, Sheyda spent several years in the research and evaluation space, working on both international and domestic projects related to public health and education. Sheyda received her BA in Global Studies from the University of Minnesota and her Masters in Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Outside of work, Sheyda is a lover of dance, cats and comedy. She spends her free time with family and friends near and far, dancing in studios and her kitchen, caring for her cat, Lola, and consuming anything that will make her laugh until she cries.


Which River Network value most speaks to you?

Sheyda kayaking with her mother on Lake Superior in Lutsen, MN.

I think I am most drawn to our value of respect as of late. I believe this value is central to the way I approach my work and is foundational in establishing the kinds of relationships and subsequent impact I want to have.

What called you to work in water?

Water is essential to our lives – it is calming, it is healing, it is nourishing – it is life. To borrow from our Indigenous communities, water is a relative not just a resource. I recognize the privilege I have to access water safely and consistently while so many in the US and elsewhere are not afforded that same experience, most often due to circumstances of human design. My work is driven by my respect for water and my desire to ensure all have safe and affordable access.

How do you recharge outside of work?

Sheyda’s cat Lola helping her get important work done.

I love cooking and more recently, have gotten into baking, and I love sharing both with friends and family. Outside of my home, I can usually be found taking a dance or yoga class for some movement medicine and connection to community.