Water is the natural resource on which human life, food security and the health of ecosystems depend. The requirement for water is increasing rapidly owing to progressive increase in the demand for irrigation, rapid industrialisation, population growth and improving living standards. The existing water resources are diminishing due to (a) unequal distribution of rain leading to drought, (b) excessive exploitation of groundwater sources and (c) deterioration of water quality owing to the discharge of domestic and industrial effluents without adequate treatment. A large number of villages in India and several other parts of the world are known to be suffering from excess salinity, fluoride, iron, arsenic and microbial contaminations of ground water. There are areas that face perennial water shortage. Thus, the sustainable management of water is one of the key challenges that our society is facing today. This paper discusses different challenges and approaches to integrated water resource management. © 2011 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.