Several recent studies have emphasised the need for a more integrated process in which researchers, policy makers and practitioners interact to identify research priorities. This paper discusses such a process with respect to the UK water sector, detailing how questions were developed through inter-disciplinary collaboration using online questionnaires and a stakeholder workshop. The paper details the 94 key questions arising, and provides commentary on their scale and scope. Prioritisation voting divided the nine research themes into three categories: (1) extreme events (primarily flooding), valuing freshwater services, and water supply, treatment and distribution [each > 150/1109 votes]; (2) freshwater pollution and integrated catchment management [100–150 votes] and; (3) freshwater biodiversity, water industry governance, understanding and managing demand and communicating water research [50–100 votes]. The biggest demand was for research to improve understanding of intervention impacts in the water environment, while a need for improved understanding of basic processes was also clearly expressed, particularly with respect to impacts of pollution and aquatic ecosystems. Questions that addressed aspects of appraisal, particularly incorporation of ecological service values into decision making, were also strongly represented. The findings revealed that sustainability has entered the lexicon of the UK water sector, but much remains to be done to embed the concept operationally, with key sustainability issues such as resilience and interaction with related key sectors, such as energy and agriculture, relatively poorly addressed. However, the exercise also revealed that a necessary condition for sustainable development, effective communication between scientists, practitioners and policy makers, already appears to be relatively well established in the UK water sector.