An improved analytical method for determination of human pharmaceuticals in natural and wastewaters with ng L(-1) sensitivity is presented. The method is applicable to pharmaceuticals from a wide range of therapeutic classes including antibiotics, analgesics, anti-inflammatories and anti-cancer compounds. Pharmaceuticals were extracted from waters using solid-phase extraction, and after concentration, analysed by high performance liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometric detection (HPLC-MS/MS). Identification of each compound was secured using retention time and by the selected reaction monitoring of two transitions, one of which was additionally used for quantification. Limits of detection ranged from 0.03 to 0.96 ng L(-1) and were up to two orders of magnitude lower than those of previously published methods. The method was validated using spiked samples prepared from tap, river and sea water as well as wastewater effluents, collected from the North of Scotland. Analysis of wastewater effluents revealed the presence of mefenamic acid, ibuprofen, erythromycin, diclofenac and trimethoprim. None of the selected pharmaceuticals were detected in river, tap or sea water samples.