Water is life and yet it is capricious. In our changing environment, water is problem and solution, destroyer and healer, divider and uniter. Water is not always available where and when it is needed. At times, too much water wreaks havoc on our efforts to control it. Pollution, pricing, distance, water management, climate change, discrimination and availability of technology limit the fair and wise use of water. However, through conscious choice we can do better. We must solve the riddle of sustainable development in the 21st century. This interdisciplinary conference will focus on different processes contributing to water scarcity, such as land use decisions, privatization, pricing, damming, commoditization and climate change, and on ways to improve peoples’ relationships to the freshwater systems they depend on. Presenters will provide international perspectives on these issues, analyzing lessons from the past and considering opportunities for the future.