Rivers in developed regions are under significant stress due to nutrient enrichment generated mainly by human activities. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus emissions are the product of complex dynamic systems influenced by various factors such as demographic, socio-economic and technological development. Using a Catalan river catchment, La Tordera (North-East of Spain), as a case study of an integrated and interdisciplinary environmental assessment of nutrient flows, we present and discuss the development of narrative socio-economic scenarios through a participatory process for the sustainable management of the anthropogenic sources of nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus. In this context, scenarios are an appropriate tool to assist nutrient emissions modelling, and to assess impacts, possible pathways for socio-economic development and associated uncertainties. Evaluated against the 1993-2003 baseline period, scenarios target the 2030 horizon, i.e. through the implementation process of the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC). After a critical examination of the methodology used in the participatory development of socio-economic scenarios, we present four possible futures (or perspectives) for the Catalan river catchment conceived by stakeholders invited to a workshop. Keys to the success of such a participatory process were trust, which enhanced openness, and disagreements, which fostered the group's creativity for scenario development. The translation of narrative socio-economic scenarios into meaningful nutrient emission scenarios is also discussed. By integrating findings of natural sciences and socio-economic analysis, we aim to assist decision makers and stakeholders in evaluating optimal management strategies for the anthropogenic sources of nitrogen and phosphorus.