Rural drinking water systems supplied by untreated groundwater were examined to determine whether coliform or heterotrophic plate count bacteria are capable of escaping entrapment on standard porosity (0.45-micron-pore-size) membrane filters. Filterable bacteria were present in 42% of the 24 groundwater sources examined by using nonselective media (R2A, full strength m-HPC, and 0.1x m-HPC agars). Pseudomonads were the most frequently identified group of filterable bacteria detected. Flavobacterium, Alcaligenes, Acinetobacter, and Achromobacter isolates were also identified. Total coliforms were not recovered from any of the 24 groundwater samples following filtration through 0.45-micron-pore-size membrane filters by using selective M-Endo LES agar or mT7 agar. In addition, none of the isolates identified from nonselective media were coliforms. Similarly, neither total coliforms nor specifically Escherichia coli were detected in these filtrates when Colilert P/A medium was used.