Suspended matter in inland waters is related to total primary production and fluxes of heavy metals and micropollutants such as PCBs. Synoptic information on suspended matter cannot be obtained from an in situ monitoring network since suspended matter is a spatially inhomogeneous parameter. This problem can be solved by the integrated use of remote sensing data, in situ data and water quality models. To enable retrospective model and remote sensing data comparison of suspended matter concentration and distribution, a methodology is required for processing satellite images that is independent of in situ measurements. Analytical optical modelling, based on knowledge on the in situ inherent optical properties, leads to reliable multi-temporal algorithms for estimating suspended matter concentration in lakes for the data from the SPOT and Landsat TM sensors. This methodology allows multi-temporal, multi-site and multi-instrument comparison of TSM maps derived from satellite imagery. This means that satellite sensor data can now become an independent measurement tool for water management authorities. The remote sensing maps showed that large gradients in TSM were observed for the various lakes as well as temporal changes of these spatial gradients. In situ point samples are shown to be not representative for suspended matter in the lakes.