Water sector reform in Italy and in the Netherlands: ambitious change with an uncertain outcome versus consensus-seeking moderate change

Daniela Argento, Jan Gerrit van Helden

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikelPeer review

11 Citeringar (Scopus)


This article aims at analysing the commonalities and differences in recent water sector reforms in Italy and in the Netherlands. The reforms in both countries are characterized by similar goals of achieving greater transparency and efficiency, and comparable governance ideas regarding the establishment of integrated water companies. However, there appears to be a gap between the reforms as initially intended and the way in which they were realized. Although the reform idea of forming integrated water companies has been maintained in Italy, its realization has been postponed, whereas in the Netherlands this reform idea has been replaced by a bottom-up implementation approach, stimulating cooperation rather than integration projects within the water sector. An assessment of the accomplishment of the reform goals conducted in the Netherlands shows that greater transparency and efficiency have been realized to some extent, whereas in Italy any systematic information on this issue has been unavailable. Our analysis of the reasons for the gaps between the reforms as originally intended and the way in which they have been realized shows some similarities between the two countries in the sense of highly institutionalized practices. There are, however, also substantial differences between these two countries. In Italy, there are no networks of water organizations, which explains the lack of local and regional commitment to the centrally desired changes, resulting in their slow execution. In the Netherlands, these networks are powerful enablers with strong coalitions, which have resisted the compulsory implementation of radical changes.

Points for practitioners

The success of a radical water sector reform, which proposes that the current types of organizations be replaced by new types of organizations, is dependent upon the approval of all powerful stakeholders. However, if radical reform is only supported by some of these powerful stakeholders, it is wise to focus mainly on the relevant goals, and have the stakeholders achieve these goals at their own discretion. The reform implementation will benefit from the involvement of stakeholders at the executive level in both the discussions about the reform content and the processes through which this content can be realized.

Sidor (från-till)790-809
Antal sidor19
TidskriftInternational Review of Administrative Sciences
StatusPublicerad - 2010
Externt publiceradJa

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