Abstract: It is critical to understand the ability of water management to prepare for and respond to the likely increasing duration, frequency, and intensity of droughts brought about by climate variability and change. This article evaluates this ability, or adaptive capacity, within large urban community water systems (CWSs) in Arizona and Georgia. It analyzes interview data on the bridges and barriers to adapting water management approaches in relation to extreme droughts over the past decade. This study not only finds levers for building adaptive capacity that are unique to each state but also identifies several unifying themes that cut across both cases. The interviews also show that a particular bridge or barrier, such as state regulation, is not universally beneficial or detrimental for building adaptive capacity within each state. Such knowledge is useful for improving water and drought management and for understanding how CWSs might prepare for future climate variability and change by removing the barriers and bolstering the bridges in efforts to build adaptive capacity.