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A critical review of public-public partnerships in water services

Gemma Boag
School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, UK gemmaboag@gmail.com
David A. McDonald
Global Development Studies, Queen'€™s University, Kingston, Canada dm23@queensu.ca

ABSTRACT: There is a profusion of literature on the commercialisation of water services around the world, but relatively little of this research speaks of alternatives to privatisation. The literature that does exist tends to be scattered in its regional and thematic orientation and inconsistent in its analytical frameworks. The writing on public-public partnerships (PUPs) is arguably the best known and most rigorous of this literature, but even this is relatively thin, with a tendency to uncritically celebrate PUP initiatives and to gloss over ambiguous conceptual frameworks. This paper provides a critical review of the PUPs literature, in part to reveal some of these problematic trends, but ultimately in an effort to advance our understanding and practice of public alternatives in the water sector (and beyond). Specifically, it analyses the different partnership arrangements available, discusses the advantages and critiques of the PUP model in both theoretical and practical terms, and considers the recent emergence of Water Operator Partnerships (WOPs).