The overwhelming majority of New Zealand’s exports – not least agricultural and horticultural – require water, and in large quantities. Indeed, in many respects water is New Zealand’s largest export. Yet the management of our fresh water has not been ideal. We have over-allocated and badly polluted some of our water resources. Such problems point to significant weaknesses in the governance of fresh water in this country. This article explores these governance issues through a complex adaptive systems lens and outlines some possible solutions.