A pre-concentration method was developed for determination of trace amounts of cadmium, copper and lead in water samples by FAAS after coprecipitation by using potassium 4-methylpiperidinedithiocarbamate (K4-MPDC) as a chelating agent and Bi(III) as a carrier element. This procedure is based on filtration of the solution containing precipitate on a cellulose nitrate membrane filter following Cd(II), Cu(II) and Pb(II) coprecipitation with Bi(III)4-MPDC and then the precipitates together with membrane filter were dissolved in concentrated nitric acid. The metal contents of the final solution were determined by FAAS. Several parameters including pH of sample solution, amount of carrier element and reagent, standing time, sample volume for precipitation and the effects of diverse ions were examined. The accuracy of the method was tested with standard reference material (MBH, C31XB20 and CRM BCR-32) and Cd, Cu and Ph added samples. Determination of Cd, Cu and Ph was carried out in sea water, river water and tap water samples. The recoveries were >95%. The relative standard deviations of determination were less than 10%. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.