The soil environment in Hawaii is generally characterised as sub-optimal but permissive to support the in situ growth of E. coli and enterococci. However, soil desiccation and competition for nutrients by major indigenous soil microflora have been identified as potential factors that could limit a rapid and continual growth of faecal indicator bacteria in this soil environment. Despite these limitations, the genetic capacities of E. coli and enterococci are robust enough to enable these bacteria to become established as minor populations of Hawaii's soil microflora. Although the concentrations of E. coli and enterococci may have represented a fraction of the total soil microbiota, their presence in this habitat was very significant, for two important reasons: (a) soil was a major environmental source of E. coli and enterococci, and (b) the elevated counts of these bacteria in streams that routinely exceeded the EPA standards were due to run-off from soil. As a result, E. coli and enterococci were inadequate indicators to measure the degree of faecal contamination and potential presence of sewage-borne pathogens in Hawaiian streams. ?? IWA Publishing 2004.