Network models for analysing public policy have become widely used in recent years. This symposium assesses the network idea by applying a common perspective on network analysis to the constellations involved in water policy formation and implementation in several countries and the European Union. Water policy is an important and increasingly salient subject, and the networks involved in the sector have altered recently in important fashions. Thus the topic is suitable for investigations of network dynamics and their impacts. In this article, some of the most significant lines of contribution to network research are reviewed, and the network concept is clarified. Preliminary assessments of the utility and limitations of network analysis are presented. In particular, it is argued that the network emphasis offers some analytical advantages in understanding policy processes. Network characteristics and some dimensions of network variability are sketched. Particular attention is paid to the dimension for which policy communities and issue networks constitute polar cases. A rationale for the comparative analysis of water policy networks across different settings is presented.