Dissolved organic compounds in a Swiss lake were fractionated into three molecular size classes by gel exclusion chromatography, and adsorption of each fraction on colloidal alumina was studied as a function of pH. Organic compounds with molecular weight (Mr) greater than 1000 formed strong complexes with the alumina surface, but low molecular weight compounds were weakly adsorbed. Electrophoretic mobility measurements indicated that alumina particles suspended in the original lake water were highly negatively charged because of adsorbed organic matter. Most of the adsorbed organic compounds were in the Mr range 1000 < Mr < 3000. Adsorption of these compounds during the treatment of drinking water by alum coagulation may be responsible for the preferential removal of trihalomethane precursors. Adsorption may also influence the molecular-weight distribution of dissolved organic material in lakes. surface, the present work will focus on the influence of molecular size and pH on the adsorption behavior of dissolved organic material of a Swiss lake. From a geochemical point of view, it is important to know the molecular-weight distribution of adsorbed organic matter so that we may better assess its reactivity with trace elements. The study also serves as a first step in quantifying the role of adsorption in the geochemical cycle of organic carbon in lacustrine environments. For water-treatment practice, we need to determine whether molecular weight fractionation occurs during adsorption by aluminum oxide. Such a fractionation could be significant in the light of recent reports that chloroform and other organochlorine compounds are preferentially produced by particular molecular-weight fractions (25-27). ?? 1981 American Chemical Society.