In the past 20 years, over 50 water indices have been developed to characterize human-water systems within the frameworks of water scarcity, water poverty, water vulnerability, and water security. This study compares existing water indices in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to better understand which parameters (or lack thereof) contribute to the usefulness of water indices. Drawing on knowledge about human-water interactions in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, this exploration of indices at the parameter level highlights missing parameters, inadequate consideration of complex relationships between parameters, and inconsistencies in index nomenclature and units. This study reveals both the benefits and shortcomings of water indices and provides recommendations for researchers and water managers to consider when selecting indices to assess and support their water policy goals.

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