Rapid population growth and urban development along waterways and coastal areas have led to decreasing water quality. To examine the effects of upstream anthropogenic activities on microbiological water quality, methods for source-specific testing are required. In this study, molecular assays targeting human enteroviruses (HEV), bovine enteroviruses (BEV), and human adenoviruses (HAdV) were developed and used to identify major sources of fecal contamination in the lower Altamaha River, Georgia. Two-liter grab samples were collected monthly from five tidally influenced stations between July and December 2002. Samples were analyzed by reverse transcription- and nested-PCR. PCR results were confirmed by dot blot hybridization. Eleven and 17 of the 30 surface water samples tested positive for HAdV and HEV, respectively. Two-thirds of the samples tested positive for either HEV or HAdV, and the viruses occurred simultaneously in 26% of samples. BEV were detected in 11 of 30 surface water samples. Binary logistic regression analysis showed that the presence of both human and bovine enteric viruses was not significantly related to either fecal coliform or total coliform levels. The presence of these viruses was directly related to dissolved oxygen and streamflow but inversely related to water temperature, rainfall in the 30 days preceding sampling, and chlorophyll-?? concentrations. The stringent host specificity of enteric viruses makes them good library-independent indicators for identification of water pollution sources. Viral pathogen detection by PCR is a highly sensitive and easy-to-use tool for rapid assessment of water quality and fecal contamination when public health risk characterization is not necessary. Copyright ?? 2005, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.