The idea that water management should take an integrated approach has become the global paradigm over the past two decades. This new paradigm has come to be known by many different names. This paper explores the use, history and meaning of these competing terms, and discusses the possible implications of this term-proliferation. The literature indicates that a minimum of 26 distinct terms have been used. The use of different terms appears to have underwritten a belief that each term identifies a distinctly different field of study. After analysing sample definitions and subject areas for the eight most frequently used terms, it has been determined that some terms do have fundamental differences and others are essentially the same. This unnecessary term-proliferation contributes to a ‘knowledge silo’ effect, impeding knowledge-sharing and research advancement within the water management field. It is recommended that both academia and industry start actively considering term-proliferation when searching and publishing literature.