INTRODUCTION: Access to safe drinking water is essential to human life and wellbeing, and is a key public health issue. However, many communities in rural and regional parts of Australia are unable to access drinking water that meets national standards for protecting human health. The aim of this research was to identify the key issues in and barriers to the provision and management of safe drinking water in rural Tasmania, Australia. METHOD: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with key local government employees and public health officials responsible for management of drinking water in rural Tasmania. Participants were asked about their core public health duties, regulatory responsibilities, perceptions and management of risk, as well as the key barriers that may be affecting the provision of safe drinking water. RESULTS: This research highlights the effect of rural locality on management and safety of fresh water in protecting public health. The key issues contributing to problems with drinking water provision and quality identified by participants included: poor and inadequate water supply infrastructure; lack of resources and staffing; inadequate catchment monitoring; and the effect of competing land uses, such as forestry, on water supply quality. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: This research raises issues of inequity in the provision of safe drinking water in rural communities. It highlights not only the increasing need for greater funding by state and commonwealth government for basic services such as drinking water, but also the importance of an holistic and integrated approach to managing drinking water resources in rural Tasmania.