Emerging water-borne pathogens constitute a major health hazard in both developed and developing nations. A new dimension to the global epidemiology of cholera-an ancient scourge-was provided by the emergence of Vibrio cholerae O139. Also, water-borne enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli ( E. coli O157:H7), although regarded as a problem of the industrialized west, has recently caused outbreaks in Africa. Outbreaks of chlorine-resistant Cryptosporidium have motivated water authorities to reassess the adequacy of current water-quality regulations. Of late, a host of other organisms, such as hepatitis viruses (including hepatitis E virus), Campylobacter jejuni, microsporidia, cyclospora, Yersinia enterocolitica, calciviruses and environmental bacteria like Mycobacterium spp, aeromonads, Legionella pneumophila and multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa have been associated with water-borne illnesses. This review critically examines the potential of these as emerging water-borne pathogens. It also examines the possible reasons, such as an increase in the number of immunocompromised individuals, urbanization and horizontal gene transfer, that may underlie their emergence. Further, measures required to face the challenge posed by these pathogens are also discussed.