The use and management of water systems is influenced by a number of factors, such as economic growth, global change (e.g., urbanization, hydrological-climatic changes), politics, history and culture. Despite noteworthy efforts to develop integrative approaches to analyze water-related problems, human-water research remains a major challenge for scholars and decision makers due to the increasing complexity of human and water systems interactions. Although existing concepts try to integrate the social and water dimensions, they usually have a disciplinary starting point and perspective, which can represent an obstacle to true integration in human-water research. Hence, a pluralistic approach is required to better understand the interactions between human and water systems. This paper discusses prominent human-water concepts (Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), socio-hydrology, and political ecology/hydrosocial approach) and presents a newly developed concept termed pluralistic water research (PWR). This is not only a pluralistic but also an integrative and interdisciplinary approach which aims to coherently and comprehensively integrate human-water dimensions. The different concepts are illustrated in a synopsis, and diverse framing of research questions are exemplified. The PWR concept integrates physical and social sciences, which enables a comprehensive analysis of human-water interactions and relations. This can lead to a better understanding of water-related issues and potentially sustainable trajectories.
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