The concentrations of a range of micro-organic compounds in the Humber rivers have been measured at weekly intervals over a period of 1 year. The compounds include the triazine herbicides (simazine, atrazine, propazine, desmetryn and prometryn), selected organophosphorus insecticides (fenitrothion, malathion and parathion), phenylurea (chlorotoluron, diuron, isoproturon and linuron) and phenoxyacid herbicides (2,4-D, MCPA, MCPB and mecoprop), phenol derivatives (phenol, 2-ethylphenol, 2-chlorophenol, 4-nitrophenol, 2-methylphenol, 4-ethylphenol and 2,4-dichlorophenol), organochlorine insecticides (HEOD, DDT, TDE, DDE, HCB, alpha-BHC and lindane), PCB's and some synthetic pyrethroid insecticides (cis/trans-permethrin, fenvalerate and cypermethrin). The results indicate the high frequency of occurrence of many compounds in the southern Humber rivers Aire, Calder, Trent and Don compared with the more occasional concentrations found in the upland rivers with catchments dominated by low intensity agriculture. The more water soluble herbicides, atrazine, simazine, isoproturon and diuron are detected frequently in the southern rivers with the highest concentrations and abundance in the rivers Aire, Calder and Trent. The most abundant phenolic compound is 2,4-dichlorophenol usually occurring at concentrations <1 mu g/l. The organochlorine insecticides and PCB's are generally at concentrations <0.01 mu g/l, cis/trans-permethrin are the only synthetic pyrethroids detected and these are found in the rivers Aire and Calder at about equal concentrations of between 0.01 and 0.11 mu g/l. The results of the occurrence of simazine and atrazine in the rivers Trent, Don and Aire illustrate peaks in concentration in the spring and then later in the year during the early autumn coinciding with the first major storm after the summer. In the rivers Trent and Don, the annual exports (March 1994-95) of atrazine are lower than for simazine whereas in the R. Calder the yield of atrazine is higher than for simazine suggesting differences in use in these catchments. The maximum triazine concentration observed, i.e. 8 mu g/l of atrazine in the R. Calder, could have inhibiting effects on the phytoplankton and algal growth, although because of the transient nature of the peaks, recovery is expected to be rapid. The only other compounds measured at concentrations likely to produce detrimental ecotoxicological effects are cis/trans permethrin in the rivers Aire and Calder. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.