This paper describes the recently developed 'Guideline s for the design and control of intermittent water distribution systems'. These guidelines outline a new approach to the design of urban water distribution systems for developing countries in order to maintain adequate and equitable supplies under the common conditions of water resource shortage. The guidelines are novel in that they recognise the reality of intermittent supply and hence provide new methods of analysis and design, appropriate for such systems. Design objectives specifically tailored to intermittent systems are developed and drive the design process. These objectives are expressed in terms of equity in supply, adequate pressure at water connections and duration or time of supply that are convenient to the consumers. The modifications required to model such systems have been incorporated into a new network analysis simulation tool coupled with an optimal design tool. © 2007 International Water Resources Association.