A method has been developed using electrothermal atomization to effectively determine the amount of gold in natural water within the nanogram range. The method has four basic steps: (1) evaporating a 1-L sample; (2) putting it in hydrobromic acid-bromine solution; (3) extracting the sample with methyl-isobutyl-ketone; and (4) determining the amount of gold using an atomic absorption spectrophotometer. The limit of detection is 0.001 ??g gold per liter. Results from three studies indicate, respectively, that the method is precise, effective, and free of interference. Specifically, a precision study indicates that the method has a relative standard deviation of 16-18%; a recovery study indicates that the method recovers gold at an average of 93%; and an interference study indicates that the interference effects are eliminated with solvent extraction and background correction techniques. Application of the method to water samples collected from 41 sites throughout the Western United States and Alaska shows a gold concentration range of < 0.001 to 0.036 ??g gold per liter, with an average of 0.005 ??g/L. ?? 1984.