The Water Framework Directive (WFD) of the European Union provides a common framework for water policy that focuses on holistic and integrated water management in river basins. In many member states, implementation of the WFD has shifted the main responsibility for local water issues from the municipal level to the regional or supra-regional levels. In this study, we investigated how the implementation of the WFD has influenced local-level water management including the interpretation of the new environmental quality standards. Specifically, we considered Sweden, which has traditionally had relatively strong governance at the municipal level. Because a sufficient amount of time has now passed for evaluation of WFD-related effects on operational water handling, we interviewed individuals directly involved in water planning and land use planning at the municipal level in one sub catchment in the Northern Baltic Sea River Basin District of Sweden, as well as representatives for superior levels and associations. Despite divergent views regarding the priority of water issues in physical planning among the local-level planners interviewed, they had all participated in successful inter-municipal pre-WFD collaboration projects. Although such collaborations could help increase the understanding and acceptance of WFD-related goals and costs, as well as facilitate conflict solving, as shown in the Oxunda Catchment, they have not gained much attention in the WFD implementation process. Additionally, physical planners have generally been reluctant to accept new environmental quality standards resulting from WFD implementation, in part because they lack precise definitions, but also because they could challenge the municipal routine of weighing various objectives against each other. Furthermore, despite WFD-related increases in ambition levels, lack of resource improvements at the municipal level were identified as potential problems by local environmental planners.