An outbreak of gastro-enteritis occurred in La Neuveville, township with 3358 inhabitants. A retrospective cohort study of 1915 participants showed that 1607 (84%) had been ill. Campylobacter jejuni was isolated from 28 patient faecal samples, Shigella sonnei from 21 patients and small round structured viruses (SRSV) from 6 patients. More than one pathogen was identified in eight persons. The epidemic curve was characteristic of a point-source outbreak. The risk for illness was significantly higher among persons who had drank unboiled drinking water than among those who had not (1290 [80·3%] of 1607 vs. 86 [27·9%] of 308; RR = 2·87; 95% CI 2·40–3·45). Risk increased significantly with the quantity of water consumed (P < 0·00 × 10−6). An SRSV isolate from water and one human faeces had an identical DNA sequence. The outbreak was due to a pump failure producing a spill of sewage into the groundwater. We conclude that transmission was waterborne and that measures including early warning, basic hygiene and sanitation improvements controlled this epidemic.