Drawing upon theory from the field of urban political ecology, we analyse a major strategic water plan for Melbourne, Australia-the Sustainable water strategy for the Central Region, published in 2006. We assess the extent to which the strategy identified and addressed ecological sustainability in terms of: cultural frames; ecological context; social equity; and engagement processes. We identify that the strategy's framing of water was largely separate from its social and ecological context. This framing resulted in the importance of issues such as environmental flows, social equity and cultural values being diminished, thus avoiding the inevitable confrontation with environmental limits needed to ensure long-term ecological sustainability. Our analysis shows that the discursive dominance of economics limited the response to persuasive scientific arguments for greater ecological consideration in the strategy. Our findings suggest that broadening engagement with the diverse ways in which water is valued is likely to contribute to more equitable and ecologically sustainable water futures.