Rapidly growing populations and migration to urban areas in developing countries has resulted in a vital need for the establishment of centralized water systems to disseminate potable water to residents. Protected source water and modern, well-maintained drinking water treatment plants can provide water adequate for human consumption. However, ageing, stressed or poorly maintained distribution systems can cause the quality of piped drinking water to deteriorate below acceptable levels and pose serious health risks. This review will outline distribution system deficiencies in developing countries caused by: the failure to disinfect water or maintain a proper disinfection residual; low pipeline water pressure; intermittent service; excessive network leakages; corrosion of parts; inadequate sewage disposal; and inequitable pricing and usage of water. Through improved research, monitoring and surveillance, increased understanding of distribution system deficiencies may focus limited resources on key areas in an effort to improve public health and decrease global disease burden.