The paper raises the volume on complex social issues that affect water management. The paper proposes Amartya Sen's capability approach (CA) as a suitable framework against which to consider these complex ideals. This is because the CA is attentive to issues of social justice and it addresses a range of intangible goods that contribute to human well-being which are critical if the gap between progressive ideas about water policy and their practical application is to be lessened. We isolate certain attributes within the CA and propose that these attributes are particularly relevant when considering ideas of social justice concerning water. We then conclude that a sharper focus on intangible social issues brings more precision to a water discourse that is all too often vague and fuzzy in its dealings with society.