M. fortuitum is a rapidly growing mycobacterium associated with community-acquired and nosocomial wound, soft tissue, and pulmonary infections. It has been postulated that water has been the source of infection especially in the hospital setting. The aim of this study was to determine if municipal water may be the source of community-acquired or nosocomial infections in the Brisbane area. Between 2007 and 2009, 20 strains of M. fortuitum were recovered from municipal water and 53 patients’ isolates were submitted to the reference laboratory. A wide variation in strain types was identified using repetitive element sequence-based PCR, with 13 clusters of ⩾2 indistinguishable isolates, and 28 patterns consisting of individual isolates. The clusters could be grouped into seven similar groups (>95% similarity). Municipal water and clinical isolates collected during the same time period and from the same geographical area consisted of different strain types, making municipal water an unlikely source of sporadic human infection.