Bacteriophage are frequently used as biotracers to identify the source of water pollutants. Genetic manipulation of bacteriophage M13mp18 has been used to enhance this technique by creating a library in which each recombinant bacteriophage genome contains a unique identification sequence. Techniques that identify a recombinant bacteriophage by the presence of the identification sequence, including polymerase chain reaction, restriction site polymorphism and plaque hybridization, have been developed. Recombinant bacteriophage can be used to test a large number of suspected sources simultaneously. The identification sequence also eliminates confusion with natural bacteriophage present in water samples. The performance of the modified bacteriophage and the techniques were assessed in simulated field trials on a restricted site carried out under a consent for environmental release of a genetically modified organism. The techniques were also field tested at sites in northwest England using wild-type M13 bacteriophage.