Drinking water quality problems are persistent and challenging for many of Canada's First Nations communities despite past and ongoing initiatives to improve the situation. These initiatives have often been employed without consideration for understanding the social context that is so critical for the development of appropriate water governance approaches. This article offers insights about the relationship between institutions for water governance and perceptions in three Ontario First Nations communities. Similarities among communities were particularly noticeable for gender where women valued water more highly and were less content with water quality. The findings presented here highlight potential impacts of displacement, gender, and water sources on perceptions of water quality and offer initial insights that indicate the need for further research to consider the potential for adaptive governance approaches that enhance fit between problem and social contexts.