We make sense of the world around us through mental knowledge structures called ‘frames’. Frames, and the metaphors that help to form and maintain them, can be studied through examining discourse. In this paper, we aim to understand the framing of two trials with environmental water by analysing interview-derived discourse. Two separate flow trials, involving changes to river operating rules and practices, were undertaken in the Edward/Kolety-Wakool river system in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin in 2017 and 2018, as part of the adaptive delivery of water for the environment. Semi-structured interviews with 18 actors in the Edward/Kolety-Wakool river system were undertaken in 2019, in which they reflected on the trials and the use of environmental water in the area. Analysis of the interviews suggest four framings of environmental water, which we have labelled business, engineering, science and medical. Each frame privileges expert practice, potentially marginalising other ways of experiencing and knowing the river system. ‘Participants’ in the social learning/adaptive management occurring in this situation, especially those with authority or influence, should be open to exploring alternate framings of situations. We present this small research project as a practical example of how a focus on revealing and considering discourse can provide interested actors with avenues for co-creation of new understandings and practice.