Despite the influence of freshwater ecology on investment and management worldwide, many aquatic ecosystems remain severely degraded. By using the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia, as an example, we examined the relationship between freshwater ecological research and interventions implemented to achieve management objectives. We explored four related issues about why freshwater ecologists are rarely satisfied with management solutions and why some adopted remedies have not achieved sustainable management outcomes. We argue that, as a discipline, freshwater ecology does not focus enough on the development of solutions. Many proposed solutions create problems elsewhere and implementation of these solutions can prove unduly problematic. Although there is no simple panacea, changes to the training and career structure of freshwater ecologists could increase researchers' focus on solutions and enhance their capacity for cross-disciplinary collaboration, especially with social scientists. Such cross-disciplinary outputs are more likely to be palatable because of their system focus. Professor Peter Cullen advocated the importance of undertaking collaborative research to generate predictive capacity. We extend that call by advocating greater cross-disciplinary collaboration and the need for research to focus on the development of solutions rather than problem delineation.