A simple preconcentration method is described for the determination of Cu, Mn, Co, Cd, Pb, Ni and Cr in water samples by flame AAS. Trace metal ions in water were sorbed as pyrocatechol violet complexes on activated carbon column at the pH range of 4-8, then eluted with 1 M HNO3 in acetone. The effect of major cations and anions of the natural water samples on the sorption of metal ions has been also investigated. The concentration of the metal ions detected after preconcentration was in agreement with the added amount. The present method was found to be applicable to the preconcentration of Cu, Mn, Co, Cd, Pb, Ni and Cr in natural water samples with good results such as R.S.D. from 3 to 8% (N = 10) and detection limits under 70 ng. 1(-1). (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.