Faecal contamination is a major causative factor for incidence of water borne infectious diseases. Certain hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S) producing enteric bacteria such as Salmonella sp. and Citrobacter sp., associated with coliforms, have been considered for rapid detection of recent faecal contamination in water. The basic H(2)S test medium, modified by adding 0.25 gm/L of L-cystine HCl, was examined for its efficiency with 90 water samples collected from 40 pipe supplies, 20 open wells, 15 hand pumps and 15 different surface water bodies (river, streams and ponds). Sterilized modified culture medium in glass vials was inoculated with 100 mL of each sample and incubated at 20, 25, 30, 35 and 44 degrees C for 18, 24, 42, 48, 66 and 72 h. Blackening of content in incubated vials was considered positive. For comparison, most probable number (MPN) of coliform and faecal coliform per 100 mL was also estimated in each sample by multiple tube fermentation (MTF) method. H(2)S positive result was exhibited by 78% of samples. Coliform (> 10) and faecal coliform/100 mL were also detected in 59% of samples. Maximum H(2)S positive results (100%) were found with well and surface water samples incubated at 30, 35 and 44 degrees C for 18 h. Coliform (> 10) and faecal coliform/100 mL were also detected in most of these samples. Pipe supplies (60%) and hand pumps (73%) also exhibited considerable H(2)S production. Coliforms and faecal coliforms were also found in significant number of these samples. Thus, the modified H(2)S test may prove a useful alternative indicator of faecal contamination for water quality surveillance and screening of large number of water samples in short duration, particularly during any outbreak of water borne disease among rural population.