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Abstract The international consensus on the need for integrated approaches for managing water resources has led to a plethora of integrated frameworks and strategies. The development of management plans for lakes and their drainage basins is part of the ‘integrated management’ agenda. Challenging questions, however, arise in regard to what integration actually means within the context of planning processes and systems, and for the management plans themselves. The limited literature on lake management planning emphasizes the need for a lead agency for planning and implementation. A relevant question is how does lake management planning relate to planning by local governments, national government departments and other stakeholder groups. The integrated lake management efforts in Uganda have led to the development of lake management plans that build on, and complement, existing local government processes and plans. Lessons from early lake management experiences indicate that establishing clear linkages in the planning processes, and within the plans themselves between lake management structures and local government, is essential for sustainability, coordination and resource mobilization. The development of lake management plans also strengthens existing local government planning systems, by providing a forum for sharing information, ideas and lessons. The lake management planning also supports the introduction of local governments to participatory, community-based planning, as well as promoting intersectoral coordination.