Water plays pivotal roles in tailoring reaction pathways in many important reactions, including cascade C-C bond formation and oxygen elimination. Herein, a kinetic study combined with complementary analyses (DRIFTS, isotopic study, 1H solid-state magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance) and density functional theory (DFT) calculations are performed to elucidate the roles of water in cascade acetone-to-isobutene reactions on a Zn x Zr y O z mixed metal oxide with balanced Lewis acid-base pairs. Our results reveal that the reaction follows the acetone-diacetone alcohol-isobutene pathway. Isobutene is produced through an intramolecular rearrangement of the eight-membered ring intermediate formed via the adsorption of diacetone alcohol on the Lewis acid-base pairs in the presence of cofed water. OH adspecies, formed by the dissociative adsorption of water on the catalyst surface, were found to distort diacetone alcohol’s hydroxyl functional group toward its carbonyl functional group and facilitate the intramolecular rearrangement of diacetone alcohol to form isobutene. In the absence of water, diacetone alcohol binds strongly to the Lewis acid site, e.g., at a Zr4+ site, via its carbonyl functional group, leading to its dramatic structural distortion and further dehydration reaction to form mesityl oxide as well as subsequent polymerization reactions and the formation of coke. The present results provide insights into the cooperative roles of water and Lewis acid-base pairs in catalytic upgrading of biomass to fuels and chemicals.