"The water" is not really correct in this sentence as it implies a specific 'container of water' as a pose to simply needing water in general. The same rule would apply to "The food".
the plants are dying without water not accepted 28 Nov 2017. Reported.
Duo has gotten a bit better about accepting present progressive as a translation for simple present, but not in this sentence. It is much more accepted in the French and Spanish modules, so this is a problem related to the database, rather than accurate translation.
Duolingo, I think you have two different answers here!! One says you need the article for l'acqua and one says not! Please make this consistent!