The aim of this study was to analyse the association between plain water intake and glycated Hb (HbA1c) in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2008–2012) rolling survey. These data included diet (4-d diaries) and HbA1c (fasted blood sample) measures of 456 men and 579 women aged 44 (sd 18) years with full information on covariates of interest (age, ethnicity, BMI, smoking status, education, other beverage intake, energy intake and fibre). Data were analysed using sex-stratified linear and logistic regressions modelling the associations of cups per d (240 ml) of plain water with HbA1c, and odds of HbA1c≥5·5 %, respectively. Substitution analyses modelled the replacement of sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juice and artificially sweetened beverages with plain water. After adjustment, 1 cup/d of plain water was associated with a −0·04 % lower HbA1c (95 % CI −0·07, −0·02) in men. In logistic regression, men had a 22 % (95 % CI 10, 32 %) reduced odds of HbA1c≥5·5 %/cup per d of plain water. There was no evidence of an association with either HbA1c or odds of HbA1c≥5·5 % in women. None of the substitution models was associated with a change in odds of HbA1c≥5·5 %. Plain water intake was associated with lower HbA1c in men but not in women. Substituting water for specific beverages was not associated with a reduced odds of HbA1c≥5·5 %, suggesting that the addition of water is the more pertinent factor. Future trials should test whether the relationships between water intake and HbA1c is causal as this could be a cost-effective and simple health intervention.