Water is the most valuable resource available on earth. Although it is present in abundance, its usable volume is very scarce. This is the reason behind the existence of both floods and droughts around the world. However, human settlements face water scarcity issues that are primarily engendered by improper town planning measures. To create a balance between the available fractions of water, it is therefore imperative to have proper water planning and management. Numerous water management techniques in operation in ancient civilizations like the Mohenjo-Daro, Mesopotamian, Roman, and Chinese drainage system have been proven to be more efficient than the contemporary methods and can therefore be used to ameliorate the current scenario. Thus, the objective of this study is to analyze water issues in three developing cities in the Asia Pacific region viz., Chennai, Kathmandu, and Jakarta by identifying the source of the problem and provide potential solutions based on the techniques followed in the ancient civilizations. Moreover, this study also aims to address the common issues in urban water planning and provide suggestions for a better and sustainable system. © 2020, Springer Nature B.V.