Environmental watering is frequently used to achieve specific ecological objectives, such as triggering spawning or seed germination. These short-term objectives are often met, but longer-term objectives, such as population growth, may not be, especially where multiple hydrological and non-hydrological factors influence success. We propose a framework to identify these factors in space and time. Our framework steps users through identifying possible inhibiting (strictures) and supporting (promoters) factors, and placing these factors in their spatial and temporal context. This allows users to identify potential limiting factors that may require additional intervention, or render the original watering action unsustainable. We illustrate the framework with examples of a floodplain tree (black box, Eucalyptus largiflorens), colonial nesting waterbird (royal spoonbill, Platalea regia) and large-bodied migratory fish (golden perch, Macquaria ambigua). The framework explores strictures and promoters for major life-history stages, emphasising the need to support and protect all stages if objectives include population maintenance or growth. In this way, the framework can document existing mental models and can be used as the basis of a risk portfolio, a prioritisation tool or future quantitative models. Thus, the framework enables individual management actions to be better grounded in a broader context, increasing the likelihood of achieving long-term ecological objectives.