Over the last several years, a variety of academic and professional partners have started to explore the relationship between water and heritage. A key challenge for communication and collaborative action in this important and growing field is a lack of shared terminologies, concepts and priorities. As water managers around the world look for inspiration from the past, heritage professionals focus on the protection of water-related sites and practices, historians explore continuities and spatial planners anticipate future needs. As a result, the future-oriented field of water management, the preservation-focused interests of heritage, and the analytical or design-oriented fields struggle to intersect, as do professional practice and academic analysis. A closer investigation of the respective interests and thematic foci of each group involved in the water and heritage field is much needed. Such an investigation needs to start with a clarification of goals, terms and concepts of both water and heritage in order to clarify different research agendas and to facilitate collective action.