Cooperation between multiple environmental decision-makers and activities is necessary to address the impacts of diffuse sources of agricultural pollution on the water quality entering Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Water planning efforts requires available knowledge to inform this co-operative water program implementation and reform. This paper uses knowledge sharing, translation and feedback features of collaboration as a way to assess knowledge work practices during key phases of the water planning process. This enabled a systematic review of knowledge work practices in partnership with collaborative water planning groups established to inform water quality program investment decisions in the GBR’s Wet Tropics region. This research builds on the growing academic and policy interest in the conditions required to enable different types of knowledge to be successfully used for policy-making by focusing on when, how and why knowledge work to meet these conditions is required.