This article assesses indigenous perceptions of water through a comparison of the water management strategies at three ancient sites located in different ecological zones of Myanmar. Two of our examples are in the high-rainfall regions of Lower Myanmar: Thagara in the Dawei River valley flanked by mountains on the east and west, and Kyaikkatha on delta lands at the egress of the Sittaung River. We contrast these adaptations with the micro-exploitation of the scarce water resources at Bagan (also spelled Pagan) in the arid zone of Upper Myanmar. In the southern wet regions, despite the different geographical setting of Thagara and Kyaikkatha, the focus was on drainage and control. Multiple ramparts and moats were used to conserve the scarce water in the dry months between December and April and control the heavy floods of the rainy months between May to November. At Bagan, sited directly on the broad Ayeyarwady River, water management of inland streams and seasonal lakes maximised the gentle slope of the plain while also coping with intermittent flash floods in the rainy months. The sites of Thagara, Kyaikkatha, and Bagan demanded specific adaptations but are alike in the absence of extensive transformation of the landscape. This balance of manmade and natural elements provides common ground despite their variable size and urbanised extent, ecological setting, and occupational sequence to highlight the shared significance of water management in their long-term urban success.