Policy for the protection of water resources requires a more holistic and integrated approach to transcend disciplinary boundaries, to overcome fragmented governance, and to create ownership of solutions through collaborative planning. In this Australian case study I summarise critical water quality characteristics (salinity, acidity, nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon, turbidity, micro-pollutants and pathogenic organisms) and management options in the context of the needs of stakeholders. Stakeholders are: dryland and irrigation farmers; urban and industrial users; and the aquatic environment. Management options are: changes in land use; interception methods (such as filtration by riparian vegetation, use of artificial wetlands, and evaporation ponds); reliance on technological water treatment methods; re-use; and trading. Clearly, the protection of water resources is a Ã¢Â€Â˜wickedÃ¢Â€Â™ problem. Critical decision-making requires greater emphasis on inclusive agricultural, ecocentric and technological thinking that includes: an understanding of the water cycle; consideration of interaction between stressors and use of systems approaches; better methods to value the aquatic environment; assessment of land use impacts on water resources; use of incentives to change behavior; and community involvement to create sustainable futures through transformation and resilience practice. To their credit, Australians are working together to explore solutions and support is available. Some examples are provided.