This paper uses an empirical approach to explore what motivates the adoption of integrated water resources management (IWRM). The study compares cases of local implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) from five German federal states representing various types of local policy addressees. Data were collected using policy analysis methods, including participatory observation and interviews with planners who had implemented WFD measures and conducted integration attempts of various types throughout the planning processes. The planning narratives on integration were analysed iteratively and its characteristics, drivers, and hampering factors were identified. It was found that policy addressees attempt integration due to the incentives for reaching their goals rather than according to their paradigms. Depending on the power relations, incentives result in the integration of different actors during different planning phases. The findings suggest that in order to strategically induce integration, it would be necessary to enhance the incentives based on a detailed knowledge of power relations. The WFD as a general regulatory framework was found not to be a driver for local integration, but the WFD did induce increased integrated management through setting goals.