Many lakes have experienced a transition from a clear into a turbid state without macrophyte growth due to eutrophication. There are several measures by which nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations in the surface water can be reduced. We used the shallow lake model PCLake to evaluate the effects of three measures (reducing external nutrient loading, increasing relative marsh area, and increasing exchange rate between open water and marsh) on water quality improvement. Furthermore, the contribution of different retention processes was calculated. Settling and burial contributed more to nutrient retention than denitrification. The model runs for a typical shallow lake in The Netherlands showed that after increasing relative marsh area to 50%, total phosphorous (TP) concentration in the surface water was lower than the Maximum Admissible Risk (MAR, a Dutch government water quality standard) level, in contrast to total nitrogen (TN) concentration. The MAR levels could also be achieved by reducing N and P load. However, reduction of nutrient concentrations to MAR levels did not result in a clear lake state with submerged vegetation. Only a combination of a more drastic reduction of the present nutrient loading, in combination with a relatively large marsh cover (approximately 50%) would lead to such a clear state. We therefore concluded that littoral marsh areas can make a small but significant contribution to lake recovery.