Despite huge differences in population, household income and development levels, Australia and Brazil have some temporal convergences in their water governance systems. Over the last 20 years, both countries have significantly reformed their water policies and practices by introducing a legal foundation for more integrated and participatory catchment/basin management based on the best information available. A critical test of any water reform is how effective it is in meeting the challenges of extreme and unpredictable conditions of drought and floods, which are expected to increase under climate changes scenarios. This paper compared the contemporary water governance frameworks of Australia and Brazil in relation to three elements of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM): integration, participation, and information/knowledge. We focused on insights from Brazil’s recent drought and Australia’s fluctuating water crises to derive lessons and recommendations for future changes. Among the main recommendations, we stress the need for both systems to improve effective participation and to embrace a more comprehensive approach to cope with water scarcity in future scenarios. Furthermore, water related decisions should be based on a transparent and well informed process, and take into account the lessons from similar situations worldwide in order to avoid unnecessary or ineffective measures. As demonstrated in the Australian case during the Millennium Drought, the most effective initiatives were those involving government, the private sector and society to achieve a more sustainable consumption pattern in all sectors. There is much to learn from the Brazilian and Australia experiences in water reforms and crises, but it is imperative to understand the social, economic and environmental context within which these took place. Continuing to develop the capacity and willingness of researchers and policy makers to work together can make an important contribution towards meeting the growing and spreading challenges in water resource management around the world.