The failure of conventional approaches to achieve equitable and sustainable water management has prompted a new way of perceiving and acting with water. This is creating a ‘new water paradigm’ that emphasizes broader stakeholder involvement; integration of sectors, issues and disciplines; attention to the human dimensions of management; and wider recognition of the economic, ecological and cultural values of water. This article reviews three approaches arising within the new water paradigm: integrated water resources management; ecosystem-based approaches; and adaptive management. The article concludes that the strengths of each approach address different moral and ecological challenges. Combining these strengths, while minimizing tensions, may contribute to more effective water management in the Anthropocene.