Abstract For the first time, water sorption on representative geothermal reservoir rocks from The Geysers steam field has been determined in the laboratory at actual reservoir temperature. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) isopiestic apparatus has been used to measure quantities of water retained at various temperatures and relative pressures by plug samples of three representative reservoir metagraywacke cores. The measurements were made at 150, 200 and 250°C as a function of relative pressure in the range 0.00 ⩽ p/ p 0 ⩽ 0.98, where p 0 is the saturated water vapor pressure. Both adsorption (increasing pressure) and desorption (decreasing pressure) runs were made in order to investigate the phenomenon of hysteresis. Low-temperature gas adsorption analyses were completed on the same rock samples. Nitrogen or krypton adsorption and desorption isotherms at 77 K were used to obtain BET (Brunauer, Emmet, Teller) specific surface areas and pore volumes and their distributions with respect to pore sizes. Mercury-intrusion porosimetry was also used to obtain similar information extending to very large pores (macropores). A qualitative correlation was found between the surface properties obtained from nitrogen adsorption and the mineralogical and petrological characteristics of the solids. In general, however, there is no direct proportionality between BET specific surface areas obtained from nitrogen adsorption and the capacity of the rocks for water adsorption at high temperatures. An analysis of the temperature dependence of adsorption/desorption indicates that multilayer adsorption rather than capillary condensation is the dominant water storage mechanism in The Geysers reservoir rocks at high temperatures.