As an archaeologist who ‘works’ with water, my experience has largely focused on the historical ecology of water management within agricultural landscapes (particularly in Eastern Africa) and I have only just begun to think about the broader materiality of water itself, but in this context I find Strang's essay thought-provoking and extremely useful with a great deal to commend. If I read it correctly, Strang's key premise is that water is ‘good to think with’ since it permeates all aspects of human and biophysical processes – thinking through water thus allows us to think across scales, from the molecular to the global, and to explore recursive relations at each level. At the same time, as an element integral to the physical/biological sustenance of all life, and also a core symbolic or cognitive referent, tracing relationalities of water within and between communities therefore also forces us to bridge common disciplinary boundaries and theoretical approaches. Thus at the same time as using water to ‘think through’ human–material relations, Strang also uses water to think through and reconcile different approaches within social theory. Finally, Strang's focus on materiality argues that water's immutable physical properties determine certain ‘universal’ and ‘non-arbitrary’ approaches to water – both physically in the sense of its management (capture, storage, irrigation, drainage) and symbolically and cognitively in terms of water's various positions in ideological regimes and its consequent uses in ceremonial and ritual life. Overall, Strang argues that the immutable physical properties of water induce physical and cognitive responses such that we should think of water as possessing a certain material agency.