Cryptosporidium and Giardia are enteric protozoa which cause waterborne diseases. To date, the detection of these organisms in water has relied upon microscopic immunofluorescent assay technology which uses antibodies directed against the cyst and oocyst forms of the protozoa. In this paper, the uv/vis extinction spectra of aqueous dispersions of Cryptosporidium and Giardia have been studied to investigate the potential use of light scattering-spectral deconvolution techniques as a rapid method for the identification and quantification of protozoa in water. Examination of purified samples of Cryptosporidium and Giardia suggests that spectral features apparent in the short wavelength region of the uv/vis spectra contain information that may be species specific for each protozoa. The spectral characteristics, as well as the particle size analysis, determined from the same spectra, allow for the quantitative classification, identification, and possibly, the assessment of the viability of the protozoa. To further increase the sensitivity of this technique, specific antibodies direction against these organisms, labelled with FITC and rhodamine are being used. It is demonstrated that uv/vis spectroscopy provides an alternative method for the characterization of Giardia and Cryptosporidium. The simplicity and reproducibility of uv/vis spectroscopy measurements makes this technique ideally suited for the development of on-line instrumentation for the rapid detection of microorganisms in water supplies.