In contrast to common perceptions, the urban water infrastructure system is a complex and dynamic system that is constantly evolving and adapting to changes in the urban environment, to sustain existing services and provide additional ones. Instead of simplifying urban water infrastructure to a static system that is decoupled from its urban context, new management strategies use the complexity of the system to their advantage by integrating centralised with decentralised solutions and explicitly embedding water systems into their urban form. However, to understand and test possible adaptation strategies, urban water modelling tools are required to support exploration of their effectiveness as the human–technology–environment system coevolves under different future scenarios. The urban water modelling community has taken first steps to developing these new modelling tools. This paper critically reviews the historical development of urban water modelling tools and provides a summary of the current state of integrated modelling approaches. It reflects on the challenges that arise through the current practice of coupling urban water management tools with urban development models and discusses a potential pathway towards a new generation of modelling tools.