The impact of academic research on socio-ecological practice remains elusive. In this paper we assess outcomes of a National Science Foundation-funded project (iUTAH: innovative Urban Transitions in Aridregion Hydro-sustainability) that applied social and engineering water science to increase urban water system sustainability in Utah, the USA. We combined an assessment of published papers and semi-structured interviews with participants to explore the degree to which this effort generated outcomes associated with successful transdisciplinary projects: providing useful products, enhancing the capacity of water system managers, strengthening social and professional networks, and changing water management structures or decisions. Results suggest that efforts to translate published scientific results in more accessible formats, incorporating stakeholders and decision-makers early and throughout the research process, and cultivating personal and professional social ties between researchers and non-academics are all important ways to ensure that research is relevant and impactful on society. The paper ends with a discussion on the need to further bridge gaps between social and engineering water sciences, and how to make science more actionable for socio-ecological problems through socio-scientific practice.