The incidence of antibiotic resistance was determined in over 2000 bacteria which were divided into the following groups: faecal streptococci, coliforms (excluding Escherichia coli), E. coli, Pseudomonas spp. and aquatic bacteria (i.e. bacteria predominant in the lake water which were excluded from the previous four categories). The isolates were obtained from the water of Windermere (English Lake District) and from a sewage effluent which entered the lake. With the exception of the faecal streptococci, the incidence of antibiotic resistance was higher in the bacteria isolated from the lake water than in those from the effluent, and ranked according to groups Pseudomonas spp. > E. coli > aquatic bacteria > coliforms > faecal streptococci. The highest incidence of multiple resistance was found among the pseudomonads. When corrected for the relative size of each population the pool of antibiotic resistance in the aquatic bacteria was by far the largest. The incidence of antibiotic resistance in aquatic bacteria isolated from Windermere was, however, lower than in those isolated from two remote upland tarns. This finding may have been due to differences in the species composition of the three sites except that the same results were obtained when only fluorescent pseudomonads were tested. The upland tarns were not totally isolated from man and other animals but did not receive any sewage or other effluents and therefore the results were surprising. Possible explanations include a lack of susceptibility in aquatic bacteria and increased resistance associated with growth in nutrient poor environments.