Background: Bacteroides ovatus, a member of the genus Bacteroides, is considered for use in molecular-based methods as a general fecal indicator. However, knowledge on its fate and persistence after a fecal contamination event remains limited. In this study, the persistence of B. ovatus was evaluated under simulated sunlight exposure and in conditions similar to freshwater and seawater. By combining propidium monoazide (PMA) treatment and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) detection, the decay rates of B. ovatus were determined in the presence and absence of exogenous photosensitizers and in salinity up to 39.5 parts per thousand at 27°C. Results: UVB was found to be important for B. ovatus decay, averaging a 4 log10 of decay over 6 h of exposure without the presence of extracellular photosensitizers. The addition of NaNO2, an exogenous sensitizer producing hydroxyl radicals, did not significantly change the decay rate of B. ovatus in both low and high salinity water, while the exogenous sensitizer algae organic matter (AOM) slowed down the decay of B. ovatus in low salinity water. At seawater salinity, the decay rate of B. ovatus was slower than that in low salinity water, except when both NaNO2 and AOM were present. Conclusion: The results of laboratory experiments suggest that if B. ovatus is released into either freshwater or seawater environment in the evening, 50% of it may be intact by the next morning; if it is released at noon, only 50% may be intact after a mere 5 min of full spectrum irradiation on a clear day. This study provides a mechanistic understanding to some of the important environmental relevant factors that influenced the inactivation kinetics of B. ovatus in the presence of sunlight irradiation, and would facilitate the use of B. ovatus to indicate the occurrence of fecal contamination.