Photocatalysis is a promising method for the disinfection of potable water in developing countries where solar irradiation can be employed, thus reducing the cost of treatment. In addition to microbial contamination, water normally contains suspended solids, dissolved inorganic ions and organic compounds (mainly humic substances) which may affect the efficacy of solar photocatalysis. In this work the photocatalytic and photolytic inactivation rates of Escherichia coli using immobilised nanoparticle TiO2 films were found to be significantly lower in surface water samples in comparison to distilled water. The presence of nitrate and sulphate anions spiked into distilled water resulted in a decrease in the rate of photocatalytic disinfection. The presence of humic acid, at the concentration found in the surface water, was found to have a more pronounced affect, significantly decreasing the rate of disinfection. Adjusting the initial pH of the water did not markedly affect the photocatalytic disinfection rate, within the narrow range studied.