While definite benefits could be gained from integrating the management of natural and human systems, taking into account the effects of human activities on the environment, the task of operationalising and implementing this approach in practice represents an enormous challenge. Some limitations highlighted include the definition of integrated water resources management (IWRM) itself, where it appears to be broad, all-encompassing and impressive but contains ‘‘lofty phrases’’ that have little practical importance for either present or future water management practices. This paper makes recommendations to uptake and incorporate the systems thinking approach (STA) in IWRM decision making processes, an approach envisaged to be more participatory and also process-oriented. Incorporation of socio-economic dynamics is also recommended, with a suggestion that the biophysical relationships like interactions in a basin between water, the human population and settlements should be analysed to the extent possible.
Key words: Integrated water resources management, operationalising IWRM, socio-economic dynamics, systems thinking approach.
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