Apart from "Drawers of Water (DOW I)" published in 1972, there have been only a handful of published studies on domestic water use and environmental health in East Africa, based on direct observations or other reliable research methods. The objective of this study was to carry out a repeat analysis of domestic water use and environmental health in East Africa based on DOW I. The study was conducted in the same sites as DOW I. Field assistants spent at least 1 day in each household observing and conducting semi-structured interviews. They measured the amount of water collected, recorded the amount of water used in the home, and noted household socio-demographic characteristics, prevalence of diarrhoea, state and use of latrines, sources of water and conditions of use. We surveyed 1015 households in 33 sites in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya in 1997. From 1967 to 1997, the prevalence of diarrhoea, in the week preceding the survey, increased from 6% to 18% in Kenya and from 16% to 21% in Uganda; it declined slightly in Tanzania (11-8%). Determinants of diarrhoea morbidity included poor hygiene (unsafe disposal of faeces and wastewater), education level of household head, obtaining water from surface sources or wells and per capita water used for cleaning. Hygiene practices are an important complement to improved water and sanitation in reducing diarrhoea morbidity.