Molecular methods such as quantitative, real-time polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) are intended to shorten the period between sampling and publicly available results. Cross comparison studies in Racine, WI, USA evaluated QPCR against agar-based (US EPA Method 1600) and defined substrate (IDEXX Colilert-18) methods for the detection and quantification of Escherichia coli and enterococci in a variety of aqueous environments (wastewater, stormwater, and surface water). Regulatory outcomes were also compared based on choice of indicator and method. Positive correlation was seen between QPCR cell equivalents and viable cells through the wastewater treatment process and in all surface water samples (river or freshwater bathing beach) but not in direct stormwater discharge. For surface water samples, correlation improved with the application of a site-specific corrective factor, with regulatory action correctly predicted 98% of the time at bathing beaches. This study suggests the potential utility of QPCR for certain water quality monitoring applications.