We performed feasibility tests of photoelectron emission spectromicroscopy of wet samples in the water window (285-532 eV) soft x-ray spectral region. Water was successfully confined in an ultrahigh vacuum compatible compartment with x-ray transparent sides. This water cell was placed in the MEPHISTO spectromicroscope in a transmission geometry, and complete x-ray absorption spectra of the water window region were acquired. We also show micrographs of test samples, mounted outside of the compartment, and imaged through the water. This technique can be used to study liquid chemistry and, at least to the micron level, the microstructure of wet samples. Possibilities include cells in water or buffer, proteins in solution, oils of tribological interest, liquid crystals, and other samples not presently accessible to the powerful x-ray photoelectron emission spectromicroscopy technique. (C) 2000 American Institute of Physics. [S0034-6748(00)04501-9].