Managing water demand in many remote Indigenous communities is critical yet often poorly implemented due in part to a lack of understanding of the volume and nature of water use. A combination of quantitative and qualitative data has enabled a deeper understanding of water consumption patterns and drivers in three remote Australian communities as part of Stage 1 of the Remote and Isolated Communities Essential Services (RICES) project. Total daily per person use averaged from 270 L/p/d to over 1,500 L/p/d and outdoor water use activities comprised up to 86% of total residential water consumed. Structured interviews with participants identified five main drivers for outdoor water use of which some are traditionally the role of local government service provision (e.g. dust control) and all are closely linked to day to day functioning (e.g. cleaning food, cooling). Traditional demand management strategies such as pricing are not yet appropriate, nor is a reliance on improving local government service provision, due partly to the resource challenges in remote communities. Community-based engagement and education, supported by local government role modelling, has been identified as a more suitable approach and will be tested in later stages of the RICES project.