This study used automated enzymatic activity measurements conducted from a mobile research vessel to detect the spatial variability of betadglucuronidase (GLUC) activity in large freshwater bodies. The ship-borne observations provided the first high-resolution spatial data of GLUC activity in large water bodies as rapid indication of fecal pollution and were used to identify associations with hydrological conditions and land use. The utility of this novel approach for water quality screening was evaluated by surveys of the Columbia River, the Mississippi River and the Yahara Lakes, covering up to a 500km river course and 50km2 lake area. The ship-borne measurements of GLUC activity correlated with standard E. coli analyses (R2=0.71) and revealed the effects of (1) precipitation events and urban run-off on GLUC activity in surface waters, (2) localized point inlets of potential fecal pollution and (3) increasing GLUC signals along gradients of urbanization. We propose that this ship-borne water quality screening to be integrated into future water inventory programs as an initial or complementary tool (besides established fecal indicator parameters), due to its ability to provide near real-time spatial information on potential fecal contamination of large surface water resources and therefore being helpful to greatly reduce potential human health risks.