Surface water samples were collected from rivers which fed into large urban areas within Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Thailand and were processed to enumerate Escherichia coli. Selected isolates were further characterized using PCR to detect the presence of specific virulence genes. Analyzing the four countries together, the approximate mean cfu/100 ml for E. coli counts in the dry season were log 4.3, while counts in the wet season were log 2.8. Of the 564 E. coli isolates screened for the presence of pathogenic genes, 3.9 % possessed at least one virulence gene. The most common pathogenic types found were Shiga toxin-producing E. coli isolates. These results reinforce the importance of monitoring urban surface waters for fecal contamination, that E. coli in these water environments may serve as opportunistic pathogens, and may help in determining the impact water usage from these rivers have on the public health of urban populations in Southeast Asia.