A new membrane filter agar medium (MI agar) containing a chromogen, indoxyl-beta-D-glucuronide, and a fluorogen, 4-methylumbelliferyl-beta-D-galactopyranoside, was developed to simultaneously detect and enumerate Escherichia coli and total coliforms (TC) in water samples on the basis of their enzyme activities. TC produced beta-galactosidase, which cleaved 4-methylumbelliferyl-beta-D-galactopyranoside to form 4-methylumbelliferone, a compound that fluoresced under longwave UV light (366 nm), while E. coli produced beta-glucuronidase, which cleaved indoxyl-beta-D-glucuronide to form a blue color. The new medium TC and E. coli recoveries were compared with those of mEndo agar and two E. coli media, mTEC agar and nutrient agar supplemented with 4-methylumbelliferyl-beta-D-glucuronide, using natural water samples and spiked drinking water samples. On average, the new medium recovered 1.8 times as many TC as mEndo agar, with greatly reduced background counts (< or = 7%). These differences were statistically significant (significance level, 0.05). Although the overall analysis revealed no statistically significant difference between the E. coli recoveries on MI agar and mTEC agar, the new medium recovered more E. coli in 16 of 23 samples (69.6%). Both MI agar and mTEC agar recovered significantly more E. coli than nutrient agar supplemented with 4-methylumbelliferyl-beta-D-glucuronide. Specificities for E. coli, TC, and noncoliforms on MI agar were 95.7% (66 of 69 samples), 93.1% (161 of 173 samples), and 93.8% (61 of 65 samples), respectively. The E. coli false-positive and false-negative rates were both 4.3%. This selective and specific medium, which employs familiar membrane filter technology [corrected] to analyze several types of water samples, is less expensive than the liquid chromogen and fluorogen media and may be useful for compliance monitoring of drinking water.