Background. Sediments pose problems at their deposition sites when there is too little sediment (e.g. wetlands) or too much sediment (e.g. navigable waterways) and, additionally, when they are contaminated. These problems often have their origin upstream in the river catchment. Objective. Global aspects of changes concerning sediment quantity and q uality, as they affect downstream areas, are reviewed. A case study of estuarine sediments demonstrates how a holistic approach helps in understanding and predicting their present and future quality. Results and Conclusions. Globally, large reservoirs intercept between 25 and 30% of the sediment and consequently supply the coast with impacts on wetlands and coastal morphology. In estuaries, the composition of sediments is determined by the mixing of marine sediments supplied from the coast and the supply by rivers. Natural tracers can be used to predict mixing ratios of marine to fluvial sediments in estuaries, and hence their contamination. Scenarios on implementation of pollution abatement, the implementation of regulations as well as climate change are needed to predict future sediment quality in downstream areas. The results show, even for a 'green' scenario, that sediment quality in the Rhine catchment will pose future problems due to the temporal storage of contaminants in soils and sediments. Recommenda tions and Outlook. The current methods applied make use of existing models linking sediment transport with point and diffuse sources in the river catchments and scenarios on the development of strength of point and diffuse sources. However, more effort is needed to come to a uniform framework which includes land use changes and links with more advanced scenario methodology for long to medium-term management of sediment quality and quantity in river catchments. © 2005 ecomed publishers (Verlagsgruppe Hüthig Jehle Rehm GmbH).