This book follows in the footsteps of a geography text, Water, Earth and Man (Chorley, 1969), which brought together authors from the physical science, social science and humanities areas of geography to set down what were at that stage separate agenda items, components of an integrated approach to river basins. In the final chapter of Water, Earth and Man, O’Riordan and More (1969) set a very perceptive agenda for the future development of water resources:
Thus, whereas the vehicles of water-resources planning are becoming more massive and complex, the requirement for their manoeuvrability is also increasing, and the aim of all future planning is to produce a large-scale and completely integrated scheme capable of constant re-evaluation.
(O’Riordan and More, 1969, p. 572)
These words were written before the arrival (in policy terms) of the ‘New Environmental Age’; without superhuman foresight the authors could not have judged how great the need for manoeuvrability might become; for example, in 1969 climatic change was being written of but was mainly played down by official agencies. Water, Earth and Man was published four years before Schumacher (1973) brought out Small is Beautiful, a herald call to a generation to begin thinking in terms of the organisation of human society in units which its members understand and can practically manage with low technologies.
At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, Agenda 21—the blueprint for sustainability—brought together the biophysical and social aspects of river basin development in several of its chapters (Table 9.1), providing a boost for the concept and a realistic assessment of the huge task ahead for both the developed and developing world. Post-Rio, scale considerations still dominate the geographer’s approach to the river basin development problem; the notion that the river