Water is central to the human story. Whether it is the deep, fresh lake, the river that brings life, or the ocean that must claim her dead, water is both friend and enemy at once. When dreams contain this powerful image in any of its forms, understanding the role of the water is essential.
Water is a strong symbol in dreams because so often it is the exclamation point of the feelings in the dream. If other objects in a dream are relaxing, a bubbling brook through a meadow is more relaxing. If some symbols generate feelings of fear or anxiety, the tumultuous ocean creates the most anxiety. Water has symbolic, archetypal meaning in that it either provides life, or harbors mystery and danger. This is a reflection of our human experiences with water.
In early human history, the hunter-gatherers quickly learned that water was the central ingredient of life. (We die of thirst much more quickly than we starve.) More importantly, to know where the water was meant knowing where the food was.
However, as commerce expanded water became a necessary evil that harbored unknown dangers. Water travel was dangerous and uncertain as sea creatures, storms, and rough seas claimed numerous voyagers. Polluted water affected livestock and spread disease.
To emphasize the positive, water is often a symbol of new life, refreshment, and vigor. Water in manageable amounts or controlled settings almost always conveys this sentiment to the dreamer. Controlled water is the key.
If a dream contains a lake, is the entire shoreline visible and likely attainable?
If a river or creek is dreamed of, is it within its banks and apparently traversable by usual means? These are all examples of controlled water.
Water presented in this way is often indicative of renewal. For example, while traveling and growing weary, the dreamer suddenly happens upon a creek.
Refreshment for the journey is close at hand. Perhaps a dreamer is out on a boat, moving over the water gently. One should anticipate a season of respite or sabbatical in life, or perhaps create an opportunity such as this intentionally.
Uncontrolled water will often create a sense of unease for a dreamer. Raging rivers, rapids, and lakes without borders often reflect being out of control of one's circumstances. Still deep water, while sometimes refreshing, may also create unease. This is because of the murkiness or uncertainty of what lies below the surface.
One exception to the generalities listed above is water faucets. In a dream, it is important to recognize if the dreamer or another is controlling the faucet and whether this is done to effect the comfort or discomfort of the dreamer. If the dreamer is controlling the faucet ineffectively, the assumption may be made that the dreamer feels out of control or unable to master what should be apparently simple circumstances (or, what's worse, perhaps there is no water to be had). If another controls the faucet, one may conclude that the dreamer feels his circumstances, for good or ill, are dependent on the whimsy of another. This whimsy may reflect either greater discomfort or comfort, whether it is an unpredictable boss, lover, or other significant relationship.