This publication lays out the basic steps required by a catchment or protected area manager to begin the Strategic Adaptive Management (SAM) process. We provide the series of steps to help deal with the complex task facing the freshwater manager. The guide provides a framework for managing the maintenance of flow regimes and water quality to support healthy ecosystem services desired by stakeholders. The approach follows a structured path adapted for any reserve, whatever the configuration, threat or resources available. The lessons contained here should also help managers charged with the management of environmental flows, which are increasingly important for degraded river systems, but also managers of freeflowing rivers whose flow regimes remain largely intact.