Little is known about the role of protists in the saturated subsurface. Porous media microcosms, containing bacteria and protists, were used to determine whether flagellates from an organically contaminated aquifer could substantively affect the number of free-living bacteria (FLB). When flagellates were present, the 3-40% maximum breakthrough of fluorescently labelled FLB injected into the microcosms was much lower than the 60-130% observed for killed controls. Grazing and clearance rates (3-27 FLB flag-1 h-1 and 12-23 nl flag-1 h-1, respectively) calculated from the data were in the range reported for flagellates in other aqueous environments. The data provide evidence that flagellate bacterivory is an important control on groundwater FLB populations.