A simple, automated microplate system for biochemical characterization of water isolates can be used to obtain fingerprints of the bacterial flora from various water samples. Mathematical models for calculating the diversities and similarities between bacterial populations are described for such fingerprints. The diversity may give information on whether an indigenous or allochthonous flora is present, and the similarities between bacterial populations, as calculated by using a population similarity coefficient (Sp), may indicate contaminations between different water samples. The system was demonstrated on coliform bacterial populations from various water samples, with or without suspected intercontamination. For unrelated water samples, the Sps were close to 0, whereas repeated samples of the same source showed Sps of 0.64 to 0.74. The Sp values from several water samples were also clustered to form a dendrogram, thus indicating the relative similarities between the bacterial populations to confirm suspected common sources of pollution.