Time-resolved laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy is one of the most sensitive optical methods which is well suited for on-line in situ analysis. Here, three examples for the steady- state and time-resolved fluorescence analysis of environmentally important analytes, the fluorescent monoaromatic hydrocarbons benzene, toluene, and xylene as well as non fluorescent heavy metal ions forming a fluorescent complex with a cation coordinating fluorescence probe, are presented and the potential of both methods is discussed. For BTX, various mixtures of the spectrally similar compounds B, T, and X showing different fluorescence lifetimes were studied with both methods. As an example for fluorometric metal ion analysis, the fluorescence probe BP(OH)2 (2,2'-bipyridyl- 3,3'-diol) was employed for the determination of d10 metal ions in water and the newly developed fluorescence probe APTA for the detection of Cu(II). Cation complexation of BP(OH2 yields spectrally very similar complexes which differ in their fluorescence lifetimes. Complexation of APTA to Cu(II) leads to small spectral changes and a strong increase in fluorescence quantum yield and lifetime. For the analytes studied, a comparison of the detection limits, standard deviations, and linear dynamic range of both methods clearly demonstrates the analytical potential of time-resolved fluorometry.© (1997) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.