Shiga toxin (Stx), one of the most potent bacterial toxins known, can cause bloody diarrhea, hemolytic uremic syndrome, kidney failure and death. The aim of this pilot was to investigate the occurrence of Shiga toxin-encoding genes, stx (stx1 and stx2) from total coliform (TC) and E. coli positive samples from small community water systems. After aliquots for TC and E. coli analyses were removed, the remnant volume of the samples was enriched, following a protocol developed for this study. Fifty-two per cent of the samples tested by multiplex PCR were positive for the presence of the stx genes; this percentage was higher in raw water samples. The stx2 gene was more abundant. Testing larger volumes of the samples increase the sensitivity of our assay, providing an alternative protocol for the detection of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) that might be missed by the TC assay. This study confirms the presence of Stx encoding genes in source and distributed water for all systems sampled and suggests STEC as a potential health risk in small systems.