There is an urgent need for cheap point-of-use methods to purify drinking water. We describe a method to deactivate pathogenic bacteria by percolation through a paper sheet containing silver nanoparticles. The silver nanoparticles are deposited by the in situ reduction of silver nitrate on the cellulose fibers of an absorbent blotting paper sheet. The aim is to achieve inactivation of bacteria during percolation through the sheet, rather than removal of bacteria from the effluent by filtration. The silver-nanoparticle containing (AgNP) papers were tested for performance in the laboratory with respect to bacteria inactivation and silver leaching as suspensions of bacteria percolated through the paper. The AgNP sheets exhibited antibacterial properties toward suspensions of Escherichia coli and Enterococcus faecalis, with log reduction values in the effluent of over log 6 and log 3, respectively. The silver loss from the AgNP sheets was minimal, with values under 0.1 ppm (the current US EPA and WHO limit for silver in drinking water). These results show promise that percolation of bacterially contaminated water through paper embedded with silver nanoparticles could be an effective emergency water treatment.