The purification of sour (H2S) water and the recovery of sulfur was accomplished using a surfactant-catalyst one step treatment process. The surface active materials were capable of forming stable intermediates with the H2S, and the foam generated by the surfactant caused the intermediates to be concentrated at the air-liquid interfaces of the bubbles. Subsequent removal, collapse of the foam, and separation of the sulfur particles allowed the surfactant to be recycled. Of the three surfactant and surfactant catalyst systems tested, sodium lauryl sulfate plus an ion catalyst produced maximum sulfur recovery of 16% by weight. Although hydrogen sulfide content was reduced to less than 0.1 ppm, residual surfactant content was 40 to 80 ppm, making the operation economically unfeasible because of the cost of the surfactant lost. Under the optimum operational conditions, 16% by weight sulfur recovery and 40 ppm residual surfactant, the operating expense was determined to be 3.5 mil/bbl of 200 ppm H2S water treated.