Debates over the management and allocation of water in the postcolonial era, and in post-apartheid South Africa in particular, reveal that struggles over water resources in Southern Africa occur within three broad frames: the institutional, the hydrological, and the ideological. Each of these realms reflects tensions in the relationship between power and principle that continue to mark the governance of water. Each perspective offers a way to understand the use and the limits of law in the management of a country's water resources. The existence of explicit principles, whether as policy guidelines, constitutional rights, or in the language of regional and international agreements, provides two important resources for those who struggle for access to water. First, a vision of a more just allocation of this fundamental resource and, second, an articulation of common benchmarks to which states and governments might be held to account.