Abstract Two bioassay procedures are proposed for determining biodegradable dissolved organic carbon (BDOC) in waters. Both involves sterile filtration of the sample, reinoculation with a natural assemblage of bacteria from the same origin as the sample, and incubation for at least 10 days in the dark at 20°C. In the first procedure, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is followed, until a plateau is reached and the difference between initial and final DOC is taken as a measure of BDOC. In the second procedure, bacterial biomass and mortality rate are followed and the integrated flux of mortality during the incubation period is calculated and divided by the growth yield to give an estimate of BDOC. Both procedures provide closely concordant results. An example of application to the study of ozonation and biological activated carbon filtration in drinking water treatment is presented.