Water stress is one of the risks climatic variations poses to livelihoods and challenge that is confronting all continent of the World. This study aimed at investigating household vulnerability and adaptation to water stress induced by climate variability on Downstream Kaduna river basin. The study sites; Shiroro, Gbako and Lavun LGA were selected purposively while random sampling was adopted to select 200 households. Historical records of hydro-climatic data were collected from NIMET and Shiroro Hydro-electric Power Station. The research employed qualitative data collected through stakeholders’ participatory survey to explore vulnerability through its three determinants: exposure to a stressor (water stress and climate variability), sensitivity to stress, and adaptive capacity of households. Interviews at the household levels, focus group meetings and site visits were conducted to assess the prevailing conditions in six communities and to develop a profile of water stress and how this was altered by climatic variations. Statistical tests were used to assess the significance of trends and questionnaire data were analysed using SPSS IBM 20 and MS Excel 2013. The results indicate that for the period 1975 to 2014 at 95% significance level, rainfall in the Kaduna river basin has no distinctive significant trend at annual and seasonal scale, but the temperature in the basin show obvious upward trends particularly during the rainy season. An overall increasing trend is prevalent in runoff series into the Shiroro reservoir which are the result of the combined effects of rainfall and temperature changes in the basin. In addition, the survey in six communities suggests that households are vulnerable to climate variability induced water stress with low current coping capacity. The study revealed that households have both individually and collectively employed strategies to minimize water-related vulnerabilities such as soil and water conservation practices, diversification and migration to nearest towns. Household adaptation techniques to water stress induced by climate variability in the study area are temporal indigenous coping strategies usually adopted during periods of stress to offset growing vulnerability. The study demonstrated how an understanding of the local household vulnerabilities will enable the recognition of early indicators of water and food insecurity in addition to the occurrence of extreme events. In general, vulnerability of households has decreased across villages due to differences in sensitivity to stress, livelihood options and infrastructure. Therefore, there is the need to have robust coping and adaptation measures to deal with the variations in the climate system.