Widespread deterioration in water quality as a result of anthropogenic activity has led to the development and implementation of measures aimed at the protection of water resources in the EU. To date, however, relatively little attention has been paid to the effectiveness of these measures. Evidence from an enrichment-sensitive lake permitted reconstructions of changes in ecological and chemical water quality over the last c. 150–200 years, a period that includes a mid to late 20th century intensification of agriculture that was widely experienced across the European Union and the subsequent implementation of measures aimed at protecting water resources against pollution from farming. The data show the development of a more nutrient-tolerant diatom community from early in the 20th century, while the main trophic changes occurred from the 1950s, with the site becoming eutrophic by the 1960s. Heightened enrichment is thought to be linked to enhanced levels of phosphorus (P) transfers from the surrounding grassland catchment owing to an intensification of agricultural activities locally. Most recently, since the late 1990s and particularly post-2007, evidence suggests a decrease in aquatic enrichment, despite continued increases in agricultural intensification. This decoupling is likely to mark a successful implementation in 2006 of measures aimed at decreasing diffuse nutrient transfers from catchments linked to agri-environmental policies in Europe. The research highlights the importance of enrichment-sensitive water bodies as sentinel sites in the monitoring of both external and internal nutrient loadings as agricultural activities and other pressures change within the context of implementing regulatory responses to earlier declines in water quality.