Restoration programmes for degraded aquatic ecosystems frequently focus on flow restoration or reinstatement, including recovery targets for volumes of water to be used for environmental benefit. Australia's Murray–Darling Basin is an example of a major system undergoing substantial water reform to balance the needs of competing users, including the environment, within the constraints of an arid climate. This reform revolves around accounting for finite volumes of water that have been shared amongst water users. We argue that while recovering water will provide good outcomes, as a sole intervention, it is not enough to deliver the desired environmental benefits of the reform given the significantly altered state of the catchment. Here, we present 10 measures that could be used to complement planned water recovery actions. These “complementary measures” integrate recovery actions, which when strategically combined with water delivery would significantly enhance water reform efforts to generate environmental outcomes in a highly modified system.