Summary The article focuses on the interface between water resources management and social and power relations. It shows that the propagators of both macro and micro?level water interventions have flawed notions of local institutions and the ‘community’. As a result, new water interventions could often end up perpetuating existing skewed power relations. The case study from Kutch, India, highlights how the process of resources management is often one of competing claims and inequality. Hence, the study argues that for issues such as equity and social justice to be addressed in water schemes, there is a need for implementing agencies to be aggressively partisan in targeting the marginalised and socially excluded groups.