The European Union's Water Framework Directive (WFD) required Member States to establish programmes of measures to achieve good water status formally by 2015, but on postponing the deadline by two six-year periods, by 2027 at the latest. With many Member States facing problems with developing such measures in the first planning cycle, and limited change in ecological status since the first river basin management plans were reported, we look at the implementation of the Directive in England, where only 17% of the surface water bodies were found at good status in 2015, a reduction of 4% since 2009. Using as a case study the Broadland Rivers catchment, we examine the measures taken for Cycle 1 and changes in the classifications of water body status, to investigate whether the way the measures were developed could have limited their potential to deliver WFD objectives. While the WFD was adopted to succeed and replace management practices targeting individually non-compliant element, findings indicate that little had changed in the way measures were developed. Although considerable progress has been made on the implementation of these measures, the limited progress in improving classifications demonstrates the limits of this approach and further makes the case for what the WFD was introduced for: the harmonised transposition of the Integrated River Basin Management paradigm, as the key for delivering good ecological status.