OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to evaluate temporal and spatial variations in the reporting of cases of giardiasis and cryptosporidiosis to a passive surveillance system, and to assess the relationship of those variations to source of drinking water, adjusting for socioeconomic variables. METHODS: The authors analyzed temporal and spatial patterns for 4,058 cases of giardiasis and 230 cases of cryptosporidiosis reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for 1993-1996. They linked each reported case to a database containing information on source of residential water supply and socioeconomic characteristics and evaluated the association between these factors and reporting rates using regression techniques. RESULTS: Reports of giardiasis and cryptosporidiosis were highest for the mixed unfiltered drinking water supply category. Reports of giardiasis were associated with income levels. Increases in reporting for both giardiasis and cryptosporidiosis were seen in summer to early fall. During a suspected outbreak of cryptosporidiosis n the city of Worcester in 1995, a significant increase in reported cases was also observed in the Boston metropolitan area. Following the suspected outbreak, weekly giardiasis rates increased slightly in Worcester and the Boston metropolitan area, while reporting of cryptosporidiosis increased dramatically. CONCLUSIONS: Consistently collected passive surveillance data have the potential to provide valuable information on the temporal variation of disease incidence as well as geographic factors. However, passive surveillance data, particularly in the initial period of surveillance, may be highly sensitive to patterns of diagnosis and reporting and should be interpreted with caution.