Expert forecasts of worldwide water scarcity depict conditions that call for proactive, preventive, coordinated water governance, but they have not been matched by public agendas of commensurate scope and urgency in the United States. This disconnect can not be adequately explained without some attention to attributes of forecasts themselves. I propose that the institutional fragmentation of water expertise and prevailing patterns of communication about water scarcity militate against the formulation of a common public definition of the problem and encourage reliance on unambiguous crises to stimulate social and policy agenda setting. I do not argue that expert forecasts should drive public agendas deterministically, but if their purpose is to help prevent water crises (not just predict them), then a greater effort is needed to overcome the barriers to meaningful public scrutiny of expert claims and evaluation of water strategies presently in place. Copyright ?? 2006 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.