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Socio-hydrology brings an interest in human values, markets, social organizations and public policy to the traditional emphasis of water science on climate, hydrology, toxicology and ecology. It also conveys a decision focus in the form of decision support tools, stakeholder engagement and new knowledge about the science–policy interface. This paper demonstrates how policy decisions and human behaviour can be better integrated into climate and hydrological models to improve their usefulness for decision support. Examples from SW USA and western Canada highlight uncertainties, vulnerabilities and critical tradeoffs facing water decision makers in the face of rapidly changing environmental and societal conditions. Irreducible uncertainties in downscaled climate and hydrological models limit the usefulness of climate-driven, predict-and-plan methods of water resource planning and management. Thus, it is argued that such methods should be replaced by approaches that use exploratory modelling, scenario planning and risk assessment in which the emphasis is on managing uncertainty rather than on reducing it. Model fusion supports all of these processes in integrating human and biophysical aspects of water systems, allowing policy impacts to be quantified and clarified, and fostering public engagement with water resource modelling.

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