The potential for developing and restoring natural assets in large-scale water systems in The Netherlands is investigated. Maximizing the natural qualities of The Netherlands means giving full play to the dynamics of wind, water and sediments. Within the limits set by safety, shipping and drinking water supplies, there appear to be numerous opportunities to restore dynamics and create sustainable nature. Ecological engineering, which concentrates on restoring natural physical processes, is linked to nature policy goals in terms of processes, habitats and species. Essential abiotic mechanisms can be identified. Three examples of projects in characteristic Dutch ecosystems (rivers, down stream freshwater lakes and estuaries) illustrate both the prospects for nature and the feasibility of combining uses with nature development. The Grensmaas-case combines gravel extraction, flood protection and natural development of a rain-fed river. The case on Lake IJssel shows the importance of “natural” water level fluctuations in an “artificially” created freshwater lake. The Western Scheldt provides an interesting case for combining the economic interests of shipping with the ecological interests of the estuary by returning arable land to the sea.