Half a century ago scientists attempted the detection of poliovirus in water. Since then other enteric viruses responsible for gastroenteritis and hepatitis have replaced enteroviruses as the main target for detection. However, most viral outbreaks are restricted to norovirus and hepatitis A virus, making them the main targets in water. The inclusion of virus analysis in regulatory standards for viruses in water samples must overcome several shortcomings such as the technical difficulties and high costs of virus monitoring, the lack of harmonised and standardised assays and the challenge posed by the ever-changing nature of viruses. However, new tools are nowadays available for the study and direct surveillance of viral pathogens in water that may contribute to fulfil these requirements.