It has been argued that culture can be considered as a fourth pillar in sustainable development; however, culture is often overlooked in contemporary sustainability discourses. The consideration of water and heritage may be one way to address this lacuna particularly through recognising the aesthetic and social importance of water as well as its technical and economical contribution to historical urban development. This article presents two European case studies that examine the way in which water management has shaped the design of urban areas and people’s interactions with those areas. The first case in Rochdale, Manchester (UK) follows a project that resulted in the deculverting of the River Roch in order to reduce flood risk and to provide other environmental and social benefits. Our second case, from Wroclaw (Poland) examines the impact that one major flood has had on the form and function of the city. We reflect on the learning from the two cases and offer recommendations for practice in order to pay more attention to the intimate relationships between the shaping of water and heritage in an era of climatic change and the need to create resilient futures.