The applicability of solid-phase extraction-short-column liquid chromatography using two short columns (i.e., 10 and 20 mm long) coupled on-line with tandem mass spectrometric detection is demonstrated for the rapid degradation study of pesticides and their transformation products in water at the low-μg/l level. Photolysis was used as a means to transform the parent compounds into their degradation products and the experiments were carried out at environmentally relevant concentrations. The use of on-line sample enrichment/separation in photodegradation studies allows the rapid analysis of aqueous samples directly after irradiation without further transformation of the compounds of interest. The versatility of MS allows various selective screening strategies to be employed, i.e., full-scan mode, neutral loss, precursor-ion and product-ion scan modes. This allows the identification of possible degradation products and the calculation of the rates of disappearance of the parent compound and appearance of transformation products. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.