Selected trace element analysis for cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc in precipitation samples by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission Spectrometry (ICP) and by atomic absorption spectrometry with graphite furnace atomization (AAGF) have been evaluated. This task was conducted in conjunction with a longterm study of precipitation chemistry at high altitude sites located in remote areas of the southwestern United States. Coefficients of variation and recovery values were determined for a standard reference water sample for all metals examined for both techniques. At concentration levels less than 10 micrograms per liter AAGF analyses exhibited better precision and accuracy than ICP. Both methods appear to offer the potential for cost-effective analysis of trace metal ions in precipitation. ?? 1987 Springer-Verlag.