Escherichia coli O157:H7 is an important foodborne pathogen that can cause hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome. Cattle feces and fecally contaminated water are important in the transmission of this organism on the farm. In this study, the survival of E. coli O157:H7 in feces and water was compared following passage through the animal digestive tract or preparation in the laboratory. Feces were collected from steers before and after oral inoculation with a marked strain of E. coli O157:H7. Fecal samples collected before cattle inoculation were subsequently inoculated with the marked strain of E. coli O157:H7 prepared in the laboratory. Subsamples were taken from both animal and laboratory-inoculated feces to inoculate 5-liter volumes of water. E. coli O157:H7 in feces survived up to 97 days, and survival was not affected by the method used to prepare the inoculating strain. E. coli O157:H7 survived up to 109 days in water, and the bacteria collected from inoculated cattle were detected up to 10 weeks longer than the laboratory-prepared culture. This study suggests that pathogen survival in low-nutrient conditions may be enhanced by passage through the gastrointestinal tract.