This study reports on research undertaken to explore the perceptions of water scarcity of residents from the middle and lower class and members from the Municipal Corporation in Bhopal, India. Drawing on a co-orientational approach the study focuses on the analysis of multiple perceptions and cognitions which are held towards the problem by members of the local Municipality, Aid Agencies and middle- and low-income residents. Co-orientation asserts that people's behaviour is not based solely on their individual cognitions of the world, but is the result of their social understanding of the perceptions and attitudes held by others around them. The analysis focuses on the three co-orientational concepts of similarity, congruency and accuracy of perceptions and attitudes of these different groups in relation to shortages in safe drinking water. While co-orientation traditionally has focussed on communication differences; it is no less effective in highlighting differences and conflicts in interests and priorities with regards to the ways in which access to safe drinking-water can be ensured for all. The methodology involved a questionnaire survey with over 100 respondents representing the Bhopal municipality, Aid agencies and public health engineers as well as a cross section of the inhabitants of Bhopal. This was augmented with in-depth semi-structured interviews with members of the same groups. The co-orientational technique identified accuracies, miscommunication and misperceptions between the groups towards the improvement of water supply and barriers for change, as well as differences in attributions of responsibilities and interests. As a consequence different perceptions, cognitions, and behaviours of the different groups and organisations towards water scarcity could be found.