Abstract In 1995, in the southwestern Vosges Mountains (NE France), 158 of 395 streams (40%) had a pH lower than 5.5 at baseflow. As elsewhere in Europe, acid deposition has decreased since the seventies, as has base cation deposition. In order to assess the response of streamwater to decreasing deposition, we compared their present chemical composition to their former composition. All comparisons showed a decrease in sulphate concentration, which was greater on granite than on sandstone. In addition calcium, magnesium and aluminium concentrations generally decreased. Acidity in streams draining granite decreased in spring, especially during the eighties, decreases were not observed on sandstone. Continuous monitoring of 5 streams since 1998 confirmed that Al concentrations decreased while changes in pH were small. Chemical trends in streams from the Vosges massif fell between those measured in Northern Europe and Central Europe. This study provides the first broad-scale overview of surface water acidification and recovery in France and emphasizes the need for continuous monitoring to assess long-term changes in aquatic ecosystems.