We examined the following samples of water from 10 hospitals for microbial contamination: water obtained using an ultra filtration system (UF water), a reverse osmosis system (RO water), a water distillation system (distilled water) and tap water. UF water and RO water are used for handwashing before surgery, and distilled water for the preparation of drugs. All 10 samples of tap water examined were contaminated with < 10 colony forming units (cfu)/mL. Thirteen (68%) of 19 samples of UF water, nine (53%) of 17 samples of RO water and 15 (79%) of 19 samples of distilled water were contaminated with 10(1)-10(4) cfu/mL. The majority of micro-organisms were non-fermentative bacteria such as Sphingomonas paucimobilis and CDC gr. IV C-2. Japanese hospitals commonly use UF water and RO water for preoperative handwashing under the assumption that it is sterile. Our results suggest, however, that these types of water are inferior microbiologically to tap water. Distilled water from the dispensary was also contaminated with micro-organisms. The available chlorine content of tap water was 0.17-0.42 ppm and that of UF water (from tap water) 0-0.06 ppm. There was no available chlorine in RO water or distilled water (each from tap water). The reduction or disappearance of available chlorine appears to be associated with microbial contamination of UF water, RO water and distilled water.