13C NMR analyses of hydrophobic dissolved organic matter (DOM) fractions isolated from a landfill leachate contaminated groundwater near Norman, OK; the Colorado River aqueduct near Los Angeles, CA; Anaheim Lake, an infiltration basin for the Santa Ana River in Orange County, CA; and groundwater from the Tomago Sand Beds, near Sydney, Australia, found branched methyl groups and quaternary aliphatic carbon structures that are indicative of terpenoid hydrocarbon precursors. Significant amounts of lignin precursors, commonly postulated to be the major source of DOM, were found only in trace quantities by thermochemolysis/gas chromatography/mass spectrometry of the Norman Landfill and Tomago Sand Bed hydrophobic DOM fractions. Electrospray/tandem mass spectrometry of the Tomago Sand Bed hydrophobic acid DOM found an ion series differing by 14 daltons, which is indicative of aliphatic and aryl-aliphatic polycarboxylic acids. The product obtained from ozonation of the resin acid, abietic acid, gave a similar ion series. Terpenoid precursors of DOM are postulated to be derived from resin acid paper sizing agents in the Norman Landfill, algal and bacterial terpenoids in the Colorado River and Anaheim Lake, and terrestrial plant terpenoids in the Tomago Sand Beds.