The groundwater underlying the Nile Delta area, Egypt, an agricultural area, was evaluated for drinking and domestic purposes. Twenty shallow groundwater samples were collected at different depths ranging from 10 to 50 m, and five surface water samples were collected from the two branches of the River Nile and one shallow ground water control sample. These samples were carefully analysed chemically and bacteriologically. The results may be helpful in identifying the reasons for the groundwater contamination in this area. The bacterial density was high in most of the shallow groundwater samples, from 3.3x103 cm-3 (minimum count) at well D4 (depth 45 m, Sers El Lyan El Menufiya), to 3x105 cm-3 (maximum count) at well D7 (depth 30m, Tanta , El Gharbiyah), and may be due to the lack of proper sanitation and the use of on-site subsurface sewage disposal. The dissolved solids increased northwards to an undesirable limit, owing to the intrusion of seawater. By contrast, the trace elements generally decreased northwards. According to WHO drinking water standards (WHO, 1993), only two elements - cadmium and lead - attained the maximum permissible limit. While copper, manganese and nickel were within the limit, iron was below it.