This paper describes ‘oases' as an integrated basis for rational water management, and integrated management as a tool for rational decision-making. In the evolution of man's relationship with water, three phases (the uses phase, the resources phase, and the environment phase) and three stages (legal, institutional, and integrative), are identified, which are examined in three areas (Argentina, Latin America, and the world) . The challenge of water resources management is to move from fragmented (closed) to complete (open) ‘oases', the ultimate goal being to restore man's relationship with nature. Integrated management of water resources is presented as a way of solving the problems that tend to dissociate man from institutions. Integrated management is a versatile tool that goes beyond the limits of disciplines that result in partial views of reality. It is also a specialized tool that promotes a harmonious relationship between natural and cultural sciences.

*In this paper, the word ‘oasis' is not given its customary meaning of “a fertile spot in the desert”. Instead, the definition the author wishes to ascribe to the word ‘oasis' is as follows: “An ecologic subsystem within the natural ecosystem, the differentiating element of which is the presence of water in all its dimensions (technical, economic, administrative/ institutional, political). The ‘oasis' is a potentially open subsystem which permits the integration of man and nature.”

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