A rapid, sensitive and selective method based on LC-MS/MS has been developed for the direct determination of acrylamide residues in water in compliance with the current European Union (EU) 98/83 Drinking Water Directive. Given the high polarity of acrylamide, the application of a rapid on-line solid phase extraction step, commonly used for preconcentrating low analyte levels, was not found to be completely satisfactory. Therefore, an alternative approach based on the use of direct large-volume injection into the LC-MS/MS system has been used. Three atmospheric-pressure interfaces (ESI, APCI and Ion Sabre APCI) were checked to reach the required sensitivity (0.1 µg/l). All three interfaces were tested by analysis of six different water samples (surface water, groundwater, drinking water and three treated water samples) spiked at three concentration levels each (0.1, 1 and 10 µg/l). When using ESI, poor sensitivity and high matrix effects were observed. This situation improved when APCI was used as the interface because no matrix effect was found, although sensitivity was not completely satisfactory. The best results were obtained by interfacing the Ion Sabre APCI; its higher sensitivity for acrylamide (LOD 0.03 µg/l) and the absence of matrix effects recommended its selection. Using this approach, satisfactory recoveries (90–97%) and precision (<12%) were obtained for all water samples studied. Besides, the acquisition of two different MS/MS transitions allowed not only the quantification but also the confirmation of acrylamide in water at concentration levels around 0.1 µg/l. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.