Abstract: Water management in small Aboriginal settlements in remote Australia is typified by technology-driven approaches where knowledge, decision-making and responsibility reside with organisations and agencies outside the settlement. This conventional approach has been a disincentive to active involvement by residents in managing the hazards and risks of their own water supply, despite the apparent presence of knowledge and skills at the settlement level. This paper outlines lessons from the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre’s Remote Community Water Management Project. The aim of the 2-year project was to identify a replicable model and process for sustainable small scale water supply management in remote Aboriginal settlements. The approach was a practical departure from viewing water quality in isolation from the other water supply issues such as water quantity, affordability, additional resources and aspirations. The risk management model that was developed and utilised is presented and the significant factors that enabled a holistic approach to water supply management are discussed. The dynamic combination of participatory processes and an iterative approach enabled effective project implementation, and created an environment of continual improvement. Critical elements of the project implementation are described, in particular, the sequencing of activities and the identification of incentives and drivers for increasing self reliance. The social capital within the case study settlements is explored as a critical attribute for a sustainable management program or change process. The model developed during the project provides a structure for expanding the approach to, for example, a regional water management strategy. The opportunities for expansion are further enhanced by the practices of developing appropriate and transferable tools. The integration of livelihood aspirations within institutions of policy and water risk management practice is endorsed for effective and sustainable local water management.