The use of contaminated surface water continues to be a pressing issue in areas of the world where people lack improved drinking water sources. In northern coastal Ecuador, many communities rely on untreated surface water as their primary source of drinking water. We undertook a study to explore how microscale river hydrodynamics affect microbial water quality at community water collection locations at three rivers with varying stream velocity and turbidity profiles. To examine how the distance from river shore and physiochemical water quality variables affect microbial contamination levels in the rivers; we collected a total of 355 water samples within six villages on three rivers; and tested for Escherichia coli concentrations using the IDEXX Quanti-tray method. We found that log10 E. coli concentrations decreased with increasing distance from shore (β = -0.017; p = 0.003). Water in the main channel had E. coli concentrations on average 0.12 log10 lower than within eddies along the river shore and 0.27 log10 lower between the sample closest to shore and any sample >6 m from the shore. Higher E. coli concentrations were also significantly associated with increased turbidity (β = 0.003; p < 0.0001) and decreased dissolved oxygen levels (β = -0.310; p < 0.0001). The results of this study can help inform community members about the safest locations to collect drinking water and also provide information on watershed scale transport of microbial contaminants between villages.