Waterbuck are rather sedentary in nature. A gregarious animal, the waterbuck may form herds consisting of six to 30 individuals. These groups are either nursery herds with females and their offspring or bachelor herds. Males start showing territorial behaviour from the age of five years, but are most dominant from the age of six to nine. The waterbuck cannot tolerate dehydration in hot weather, and thus inhabits areas close to sources of water. Predominantly a grazer, the waterbuck is mostly found on grassland. In equatorial regions, breeding takes place throughout the year, but births are at their peak in the rainy season. The gestational period lasts for seven to eight months, followed by the birth of a single calf.
Waterbuck inhabit scrub and savanna areas along rivers, lakes and valleys. Due to their requirement for grasslands as well as water, the waterbuck have a sparse ecotone distribution. The IUCN lists the waterbuck as being of Least Concern. More specifically, the common waterbuck is listed as of Least Concern while the defassa waterbuck is Near Threatened. The population trend for both the common and defassa waterbuck is downwards, especially that of the latter, with large populations being eliminated from certain habitats because of hunting and human disturbance.