An interpretative mixed methods study approach was developed to explore how catchment residents understand, experience and give meaning to a reservoir and its surroundings to assist water management. By conceptualizing a reservoir and its surroundings as a social representation, the quantitative study empirically describes catchment residents’ representations using a word association task as a consultation tool. Individual semi-structured interviews were carried out to elaborate on the results discovered in the survey and to develop an in-depth understanding of residents’ meanings and underlying experiences about the reservoir and its surroundings. Results indicate that meanings can be grouped into two broad thematic categories: personal and social. The integrative theme of ‘showcase of everyday life stories/memories’ was identified through the repeated narrative expressions of place experiences in creating enduring memories and nostalgia. The analysis should be especially useful to professionals in Environmental Management and Sociology.