Increasing awareness of the environmental value and importance of catchment systems, coupled with the emergence of legislative demands encouraging a holistic approach to environmental management, has forced practitioners to have a sound understanding of the fluvial systems with which they are working. The collection and interpretation of information regarding the functioning of riparian processes is an integral component of this understanding. This paper details the methods and application of the rapid riparian assessment, which was designed to assess urban stream networks. This tool was developed for Ku-ring-gai Council, Sydney, to aid environmental decisions and management processes by collecting meaningful data to identify specific pressures at individual reaches and how these affect catchment processes. These data have been used to identify individual reach and overall catchment condition, and are now guiding capital maintenance programmes to maximise the benefits to natural systems.