The MAGIC model was calibrated to 143 lakes in Sweden, all of which are monitored in Swedish national monitoring programmes conducted by the University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Soil characteristics of the lake catchments were obtained from the National Survey of Forest Soils and Vegetation also carried out by SLU. Deposition data were provided by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI). The model successfully simulated the observed lake and soil chemistry at 133 lakes and their catchments. The fact that 85% of the lakes calibrated successfully without being treated in an individual way suggests that data gathered by the national monitoring programmes are suitable for modelling of soil and surface water recovery from acidification. The lake and soil chemistry data were then projected into the future under the deposition scenario based on emission reductions agreed in the Gothenburg protocol. Deposition of sulphur (sea salt corrected) was estimated to decrease from 1990 to 2010 by 65–73%; deposition of nitrogen was estimated to decrease by 53%. The model simulated relatively rapid improvements in lake water chemistry in response to the decline in deposition from 1990 to 2010, but the improvements levelled off once deposition stabilised at the lower value. There was a major improvement of simulated lake water charge balance acid neutralising capacity (ANC) from 1990 to 2010 in all lakes. The modelled lakes were divided into acidification sensitive and non-sensitive. The modelled sensitive lakes are representative of 20% of the most sensitive lakes in Sweden. By 2010, the ANC in the sensitive lakes was 10 to 50 μeq L−1below estimated pre-industrial levels and did not increase much further from 2010 to 2040. Soils at the majority of the modelled catchments continued to lose base cations even after the simulated decline in acid deposition was complete, i.e. after the year 2010. Based on this model prediction, the acidification of the Swedish soils will in general not be reversed by the deposition reduction experienced over the last 10 years and expected to occur by the year 2010.