Water planning processes in Australia have struggled to account for Indigenous interests and rights in water, including the use of Indigenous knowledge in water management. In exploring the role of Indigenous knowledge in government-led water planning processes, how might tensions between Western scientific and Indigenous knowledges be lessened? Drawing on two case studies from northern Australia we examine how Indigenous knowledge is represented and managed as a different social knowledge to that of Western science in a management context where legal and planning conventions assume priority. The role of Indigenous (social) knowledges in developing options and strategies for sustainable water management is contingent upon the participation of Indigenous people in water planning. We suggest that water planning processes must contain the possibility of an explicit approach to mutual recognition and consequent translation of the conceptual and pragmatic bases of water management and planning in both Western scientific and Indigenous domains. � 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.