Floods wreak chaos and destruction in many places, but for people in arid regions using spate irrigation, the floods that emerge from ephemeral rivers symbolize life, livelihood and prosperity. Communities pray for floods as they are the only source of water. Pakistan has the largest amount ofland under spate irrigation in the world. Spate irrigation is a unique 1000-year-old system. Yet despite its many environmental, social, cultural, managerial and economic benefits, it is not widely known among academics, researchers or practitioners. The practice is based on indigenous knowledge learned from elders and passed down from one generation to the next, with enthusiasm and interest, as part of culture and heritage. This article explores the innovative aspects of this system, which is crucial as a sustainable means of livelihood. It explains how the system lets people effectively manage the spate flows, protecting them against the havoc caused by floods, and allowing land to be developed to meet the needs of future populations.