Ten strains of lentil rhizobia (Rhizobium leguminosarum) were evaluated for drought tolerance by exposing them to soil moisture potentials of -0.03, -1.0 and -1.5 MPa. Water availability, rhizobial strain and time of exposure to drought had a significant (P ≤ 0.001) effect on the number of surviving rhizobia g-1 of soil. Highest cell counts were observed at -0.03 MPa, followed by soil maintained at -1.0 and -1.5 MPa. Five strains originating from saline areas showed significantly (P ≤ 0.05) better survival under low water potential after 35 days. Two strains exhibited greatest survival under low water potential and produced viable cell counts of more than 107 rhizobia g-1 of soil. These strains could probably be used successfully as inoculants for lentil production in arid and semi-arid environments.