Modern water governance has a holistic approach where ecological, political, economic and social perspectives are integrated. Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) proposes ecosystem-based thinking and administrative settings organized along river basin districts. In the EU, this new way of working with water governance and water issues was first introduced with the Water Framework Directive in 2000, subsequently followed by e.g. the Floods Directive (2007) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008). This holistic view diverges sharply from how the political system and government agencies have traditionally worked with water governance, setting up “silo” policies for one or a few issues at a time, and primarily dealing with individual locations within a single regional or municipal jurisdiction, rather than the full continuum of water governance issues that can arise when managing larger bodies of water. IWRM also proposes adaptive management, essentially assuming that uses, and trade-offs between different uses, of water can be revised continuously as new knowledge is acquired, and as the needs of society change. The need for flexibility in IWRM faces trade-offs with the legal and economic systems’ need for continuity and predictability. The governance processes called for in IWRM cut across many of the institutional boundaries and legal approaches traditionally linked to water management in Nordic and European countries, and the economic tradeoffs involved are complex. Thus, the implementation of IWRM raises important issues for numerous social sciences.