Effective water management within urban settings requires robust multidisciplinary understanding and an appreciation of the value added to urban spaces by providing multifunctional green-blue spaces. Multifunctional landscapes where ecosystem service provisions are ‘designed-in’ can help ‘transition’ cities to more sustainable environments which are more resilient to changing future conditions. With benefits ranging from the supply of water, habitat and energy to pollutant removal, amenity and opportunities for recreation, urban water bodies can provide a focal point for reconnecting humans and nature in otherwise densely built-up areas. Managing water within urban spaces is an essential infrastructure requirement but has historically been undertaken in isolation from other urban functions and spatial requirements. Increasingly, because of the limits of space and need to respond to new drivers (e.g. mitigation of diffuse pollution), more sustainable approaches to urban water management are being applied which can have multiple functions and benefits. This paper presents a review of ecosystem services associated with water, particularly those in urban environments, and uses the emerging language of ecosystem services to provide a framework for discussion. The range of supporting, provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services associated with differing types of urban water bodies are identified. A matrix is then used to evaluate the results of a series of social, ecological and physical science studies co-located on a single stretch of a restored urban river. Findings identify the benefits of, but also barriers to, the implementation of a transdisciplinary research approach. For many, transdisciplinary research still appears to be on the edge of scientific respectability. In order to approach this challenge, it is imperative that we bring together discipline specific expertise to address fundamental and applied problems in a holistic way. The ecosystem services approach offers an exciting mechanism to support researchers in tackling research questions that require thinking beyond traditional scientific boundaries. The opportunity to fully exploit this approach to collaborative working should not be lost.