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Governance in Water Supply

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Name of the Asset | Governance in Water Supply
Type of Asset | GDN Working Paper
Date | September 2009


Approximately 97.5% of the world’s water is salty. Of the remaining freshwater, only 0.26% is accessible. This paper reviews the institutional framework that governs the scarce supply of water services, with a specific focus on developing countries.

The study highlights the main mismatches that plague the water sector, namely those between the nature of resources, functions, jurisdiction and objectives of the different agents involved. It then goes on to address three main issues: the public vs. private provision debate, the design of the regulatory framework, and affordability and the design of subsidies. 

Results show that it is unclear whether subsidies and social policies need to be infrastructure-specific and whether water regulators should be involved in designing or administering welfare programs. In terms of private participation, it is apparent that the presence of private operators has in many cases been instrumental in bringing about increases in coverage and quality improvements. However, the private sector has clearly failed to induce either large flows of investments or significant price reductions and the world’s poor have often been subjected to high prices charged by small, unregulated, private producers.

This paper served as a background paper for GDN’s Global Research Project on Varieties of Governance: Effective Public Service Delivery and highlighted the main issues and research questions to be pursued for the water sector studies. 

Authors | Stéphane Straub
Country and/or Region | Developing Countries
Name of the Program | GDN's Global Research Project 'Varieties of Governance: Effective Public Service Delivery'
Funder(s) | The International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada; and The World Bank

Download the Full Study here

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