Good water governance without good urban governance? Regulation, service delivery models, and local government
‘State failure’ came to prominence in the 1980s to explain a range of challenges facing water supplies. Given the apparent problem, water supply was said to require organizational reform which would reduce government involvement in and influence over service delivery. Service providers, it was argued, should be independent from government. Among the associated reforms privatization has drawn the most attention, but alternative service delivery (ASD) has also proven important. Concomitantly, the regulatory role of senior governments was initially ‘rolled back’. Since that time, regulatory oversight at higher scales has been reasserted in many cases, yet the perceived need to circumscribe the role of municipal governments through organizational reforms like ASD persists. Using a case study of water sector reform in Ontario, Canada, I argue that such views conflate organizations with governance, thus ignoring underlying municipal issues affecting water supply. This, in turn, can limit the effectiveness of regulatory improvements at higher scales. Given the increased focus on institutions to resolve water-supply challenges, these findings have implications for other contexts. In Canada a municipality is a local government whose powers and responsibilities are defined by the provinces under their respective municipal acts. While these powers are typically limited compared with other jurisdictions, in keeping with trends elsewhere municipal responsibilities have been increasing. Keywords: local governance, municipalities, water, Canada, ASD, deregulation of reregulation, rescaling, new public management, neoliberalism
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