This paper describes an 'environmentally friendly,' water castable, water developable photoresist system. The chemically amplified negative-tone resist system consists of three water-soluble components: a polymer, poly(methyl acrylamidoglycolate methyl ether), [poly(MAGME)]; a photoacid generator, dimethyl dihydroxyphenylsulfonium triflate and a crosslinker, butanediol. Poly(MAGME) was synthesized by solution free radical polymerization. In the three-component resist system, the acid generated by photolysis of the photoacid generator catalyzes the crosslinking of poly(MAGME) in the exposed regions during post-exposure baking, thus rendering the exposed regions insoluble in water. Negative tone relief images are obtained by developing with pure water. The resist is able to resolve 1 micrometer line/space features (1:1 aspect ratio) with an exposure dose of 100 mJ/cm2 at 248 nm. The resist can be used to generate etched copper relief images on printed circuit boards using aqueous sodium persulfate as the etchant. The crosslinking mechanism has been investigated by model compound studies using 13C NMR. These studies have revealed that the acid catalyzed reaction of the poly(MAGME) with butanediol proceeds via both transesterification and transacetalization (transaminalization) reactions at low temperatures, and also via transamidation at high temperatures.