Cooling water samples from 31 cooling tower systems were cultured for Legionella over a 16-week summer period. The selected systems were known to be colonized by Legionella. Mean Legionella counts and standard deviations were calculated and time series correlograms prepared for each system. The standard deviations of Legionella counts in all the systems were very large, indicating great variability in the systems over the time period. Time series analyses demonstrated that in the majority of cases there was no significant relationship between the Legionella counts in the cooling tower at time of collection and the culture result once it was available. In the majority of systems (25/28), culture results from Legionella samples taken from the same systems 2 weeks apart were not statistically related. The data suggest that determinations of health risks from cooling towers cannot be reliably based upon single or infrequent Legionella tests.