The potential contribution of in situ biodegradation as a mechanism for natural attenuation of MTBE in surface water was studied. Surface water sediments from streams and lakes at 11 sites throughout the US. Microbial degradation of [U-14C] MTBE was observed in surface-water-sediment microcosms under anaerobic conditions, but the efficiency and products of anaerobic MTBE biodegradation were strongly dependent on the predominant terminal electron accepting conditions. In the presence of substantial methanogenic activity, MTBE biodegradation was nominal and involved reduction of MTBE to t-butanol (TBA). Under more oxidizing conditions, minimal accumulation of 14C-TBA and significant mineralization of [U-14C] MTBE to 14CO2 were observed. Microorganisms inhabiting the bed sediments of streams and lakes could degrade MTBE effectively under a range of anaerobic terminal electron accepting conditions. Thus, anaerobic bed sediment microbial processes also might contribute to natural attenuation of MTBE in surface water systems throughout the US. This is an abstract of a paper presented at the 222nd ACS National Meting (Chicago, IL 8/26-30/2001).