Since 2000 six standardised biennial public surveys of the state of the New Zealand environment have been undertaken. A fresh water case study was included in the 2010 postal survey and in an electronic survey. Desirable futures for New Zealand's fresh water resources, sources of damage to freshwater, preferred management approaches, and views about charges for commercial uses of water are reported. Respondents desire high quality water, are not prepared to trade that off for damaging economic gains, and support charges for commercial uses of water. We report public preferences for tools to manage water use.