It is widely accepted that water resources are vulnerable to socioeconomic development and environment change including climate change/variability. So, analyzing the type and extent of stresses (that render water a vulnerable resource) and the capacity of the system to adapt is necessary for integrated water resources management. This paper departs from the common notion that links vulnerability to water crisis, and analyzes a water resources system in the Bagmati River Basin (BRB) in Nepal from the perspective of both stress and adaptive capacity. The analysis is based on evaluation of eleven indicators, eight parameters, two sub-indices and an index. The situation analysis in basin and sub-watershed scale suggests considerable variation in parameter values and vulnerability index in different geographical (basin and sub-watershed) and spatial (three sub-watersheds) scales within the BRB, revealing the need for differential policy interventions based on scale. The northern sub-watershed in the BRB which has favourable climate for human settlement and cultivation, is more vulnerable than the southern sub-watershed. Relatively higher vulnerability in northern sub-watershed is due to high stress (related mainly to water scarcity) and low adaptive capacity (related mainly to low natural capacity). The comprehensive and easily interpretable finding is expected to help decision makers to reach sound solutions to reduce vulnerability of water resources system in the dynamic environment.

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