A sensitive spectrophotometric method for the determination of freely dissolved copper concentrations in aqueous samples after preconcentration with hollow fiber membrane extraction has been developed. The method is based on the equilibrium sampling through a selective membrane into an acceptor solution containing 4-(pyridyl-2-azo)resorcinol (PAR), which serves as stripping agent and metal indicator. Negligible extraction of interferences and equilibrium enrichment of copper allowed for selective spectrophotometric determination of the Cu-PAR complex. Some important extraction parameters such as acceptor composition, shaking, equilibrium time, and sample volume were studied. The optimized methodology showed good linearity in the range of 5-100 mu g/L, an enrichment factor of 93, good repeatability and reproducibility (RSDs < 6%, n = 6), and a detection limit of 4 mu g/L. The cationic metals Ni2+, CO2+, Cd2+, Fe3+, Pb2+, Zn2+, and Mn2+ were shown not to interfere with the measurement of Cu2+. Measurements on samples containing mixtures of various ligands and cations were in good agreement with theoretically calculated concentrations, and the method was also applied to environmental samples. The developed technique requires less labor and less sophisticated equipment than conventional methods typically based on atomic absorption spectrometry or ICP.