This paper reports on an investigation of a multiple-use water supply system (MUS) in Bangladesh which set out to test the claim that MUS meet users’ needs for water more effectively than single-use systems. A water needs framework was developed and water users (84) from three villages were interviewed during June–July 2007. The opinion of the users was that the MUS meet their needs for water better than the conventional systems they replace. The benefits include increased productivity and incomes, reduced irrigation costs and easier access to iron-free domestic water. However, the systems are not affordable for the communities over a ten-year timeframe. The poor have less access to the piped household supply contrasting to near universal access to hand tubewells. Problems are identified relating to ownership, management, representation, skilled staff, external support and the legal framework that leave users vulnerable to powerful owners who control water supply.