Contaminated drinking water is one of the most important environmental contributors to the human disease burden. Monitoring of water for the presence of pathogens is an essential part of ensuring drinking water safety. In order to assess water quality it is essential to have methods available to sample and detect the type, level and viability of pathogens in water which are effective, cheap, quick, sensitive, and where possible high throughput. Nanotechnology has the potential to drastically improve the monitoring of waterborne pathogens when compared to conventional approaches. To date, there have been no reviews that outline the applications of nanotechnology in this area despite increasing exploitation of nanotechnology for this purpose. This review is therefore the first overview of the state-of-the-art in the application of nanotechnology to waterborne pathogen sampling and detection schemes. Research in this field has been centered on the use of engineered nanomaterials. The effectiveness and limitations of nanomaterial-based approaches is outlined. A future outlook of the advances that are likely to emerge in this area, as well as recommendations for areas of further research are provided.