Abstract Solar water disinfection (SODIS) has been known for more than 30 years. The technique consists of placing water into transparent plastic or glass containers (normally 2L PET beverage bottles) which are then exposed to the sun. Exposure times vary from 6 to 48h depending on the intensity of sunlight and sensitivity of the pathogens. Its germicidal effect is based on the combined effect of thermal heating of solar light and UV radiation. It has been repeatedly shown to be effective for eliminating microbial pathogens and reduce diarrhoeal morbidity including cholera. Since 1980 much research has been carried out to investigate the mechanisms of solar radiation induced cell death in water and possible enhancement technologies to make it faster and safer. Since SODIS is simple to use and inexpensive, the method has spread throughout the developing world and is in daily use in more than 50 countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. More than 5 million people disinfect their drinking water with the solar disinfection (SODIS) technique. This review attempts to revise all relevant knowledge about solar disinfection from microbiological issues, laboratory research, solar testing, up to and including real application studies, limitations, factors influencing adoption of the technique and health impact.