Water sustains life: without it, humans cannot survive for more than a few days. And yet this precious fluid is increasingly politicised as the debates about the world's water supply gain force. The control and ownership of water itself, and of the many organizations which govern its use, are increasingly the focus of international concern. Maggie Black explores the many roles water plays in human life and provides a clear overview on the vital issues of distribution, technology, irrigation, land use and water's commodification. For local communities the defence of water rights is set to become explosive, and could escalate into conflicts.