The articles in this special issue draw on examples from Californian and Australian history to consider how people have met the challenges of securing adequate water supplies and managing water issues in urban settings. Through studies in which water, an issue that is of universal relevance, is central to the narrative, the collection aims to combine detailed empirical case studies with comparative studies of broader processes. The aim of this introductory article is to identify the scope for comparative histories of Californian and Australian cities, based on historical and geographic features that are common to the two regions, and to consider long-term influences on the ways in which the demand for and supply of water was managed in different cities.

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