Worldwide, contaminated drinking water poses a major health threat, particularly to child development. Diarrhoea represents a large part of the water-related disease burden and enteric infections have been linked to nutritional and growth shortfalls as well as long-term physical and cognitive impairment in children. Previous studies detailed the frequency of infection and the consequences for child health in a shanty town in north-east Brazil. To determine the frequency of contaminated water, we measured faecal contamination in primary drinking water samples from 231 randomly selected households. Risk for contamination was compared across source and storage types. Nearly a third of the study households (70/231: 30.3%) had contaminated drinking water; the source with the highest frequency of contamination was well water (23/24: 95.8%). For tap water, the type of storage had a significant effect on the susceptibility to contamination (χ2=12.090; p=0.007). The observed pattern of contamination demonstrated the relative potential contributions of both source and storage. With evidence that supports the inclusion of source and storage in water quality surveys, this study, like others, suggests that contaminated drinking water in storage vessels may be an important factor for the documented diarrhoea disease burden in the Brazilian shanty town.