Reductive amination of various ketones and aldehydes by transfer hydrogenation under aqueous conditions has been developed, by using cyclometallated iridium complexes as catalysts and formate as hydrogen source. The pH value of the solution is shown to be critical for a high catalytic chemoselectivity and activity, with the best pH value being 4.8. In comparison with that in organic solvents, the reductive amination in an aqueous phase is faster, and the molar ratio of the substrate to the catalyst (S/C) can be set as high as 1×105, the highest S/C value ever reported in reductive amination reactions. The catalyst is easy to access and the reaction is operationally simple, allowing a wide range of ketones and aldehydes to react with various amines in high yields. The protocol provides a practical and environmental friendly new method for the synthesis of amine compounds.