Leaky Governance
240 pages, 6 x 9
2 maps, 9 graphs, 3 figures, 10 tables
Release Date:01 Aug 2016
Release Date:15 Jan 2016
Release Date:15 Jan 2016
Release Date:15 Jan 2016

Leaky Governance

Alternative Service Delivery and the Myth of Water Utility Independence

UBC Press

Municipalities face important water supply challenges. These are widely attributed to local government politicization. Neoliberal reforms have only exacerbated the strained relationships between water utilities and local governments. In response, organizational reform to increase utility autonomy through alternative service delivery (ASD) has been promoted around the world. For its proponents, ASD offers independence from municipal government without relinquishing control over the utility; for its detractors, it is privatization under another name. Yet the organizational barriers offered by ASD are at best leaky. Deeply interdependent, both water management and municipal governance must be strengthened to meet contemporary water supply needs.

Leaky Governance explores ASD’s relation to neoliberalization, water supply, and local governance. Drawing on economic geography and political ecology, Kathryn Furlong examines organizational models for water supply and how they are affected by shifting governance and institutional environments. Her analysis of Ontario paints a complex picture of both ASD and municipal government.

Leaky Governance addresses urgent and topical questions in urban governance and water management, tackling increasingly pressing environmental, political, and social issues surrounding water supply and their relationship to urban governance and economics, as well as to broader issues in public policy.

With its focus on water supply, Leaky Governance will be of interest to professionals, scholars, students, and policymakers working on related issues across a variety of disciplines, including geography, urban studies, environmental studies, political science, and public policy.


  • 2017, Winner - Book, Jacket, & Journal Show: Jackets & Covers, AAUP
This is a fascinating and important analysis of water supply in Canada. Leaky Governance demonstrates how water supply and provision is a complex interplay between local governance and municipal politics. The book is an excellent contribution to the growing scholarship in water governance. Farhana Sultana is an associate professor of geography at Syracuse University and the co-editor of The Right to Water: Politics, Governance and Social Struggles
Kathryn Furlong is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at the Université de Montréal and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Urban, Water and Utility Governance. Her research focuses on water supply from an economic geography and political ecology perspective, looking in particular at issues related to urban governance, utility politics, service access and infrastructure. Her published work includes research on these issues in Canada, Colombia and the Netherlands. Her most recent articles are published in the Annals of Association of American Geographers, Geoforum and Technology in Society. More about her work can be found at www.urbanwater.ca.


1 Alternative Service Delivery: Rhetoric and Reform

2 Understanding ASD: Antecedents and Relevance

3 Driving Forces: Turning to ASD in Ontario

4 Leaky Governance: Interdependence and Politics beyond Government

5 Challenging ASD: Opening the Local Government Container

6 ASD and the Goal of Efficiency

7 Conclusions




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