© 2018

Modernization and Urban Water Governance

Organizational Change and Sustainability in Europe


  • Provides a comparative analysis of German, French and English models of urban water systems

  • Reveals how the principles of modernization in Europe have transformed the organizational characteristics of urban water systems

  • Identifies the limitations for Urban Water Systems in Europe (UWSEs) for achieving sustainability


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xviii
  2. Thomas Bolognesi
    Pages 1-17
  3. Three Stylized Facts on UWSEs’ Modernization: Depoliticization, Resilience and Sustainability

  4. Institutional Hybridization and Inconsistencies: Theoretical Lessons for Institutional Dynamics and Its Sustainability

  5. Thomas Bolognesi
    Pages 389-400
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 401-446

About this book


This book describes the impact of modernization on the organization and sustainability of Urban Water Systems in Europe (UWSEs). Bolognesi explains that the modernization of UWSEs was a regulatory shock that began in the 1990s and was put into action with the EU Water Framework Directive in the year 2000. This process sought to reorganize water governance in order to achieve certain sustainability goals, but it fell short of expectations.

Modernization and Urban Water Governance provides an update on the organization and sustainability of UWSEs, while drawing from a comparative analysis of German, French, and English water models and an institutionalist explanation of the current situation. With a focus on transaction costs, property rights allocation and institutional environments, this book argues that the modernization of UWSEs tends to depoliticize these systems and make them more resilient but also limits their potential for sustainable management.

This book will be relevant to those wishing to understand the real impacts of water reform in Europe according to national contingencies.


Urban Water Governance Modernization of Water Governance Modernization of Urban Water Governance Water Reform Water Reform in Europe Urban Water Systems in Europe European Regulatory Framework of Water Management Water Utility

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

About the authors

Thomas Bolognesi is a senior researcher at the University of Geneva and member of the UNESCO Chairs programme in Hydropolitics. His fields of research include political economy and institutional and organizational economics.

Bibliographic information

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“This book combines insights from both institutional theory and actual practice and outcomes to provide an in-depth analysis of what the 2000 EU Water Framework Directive has meant for urban water systems in Europe. Using cases from England, France and Germany the book explains the effects of the regulatory ‘shock’ and what is has led to in terms of depoliticization, socio-economic resilience and the potential for sustainability.   It is ‘must read’ book for anyone involved in urban water governance, wherever they might live, and for scholars who wish to understand how regulations affect outcomes, whatever their disciplinary or thematic specializations.” (Quentin Grafton, Australian National University, Australia)

“Dr. Bolognesi develops a challenging and innovative institutional approach to the regulatory reforms of water systems in Europe. He points out many sources of misalignment in the solutions adopted while keeping in view the often neglected technological dimension. A 'must read' contribution.” (Claude Ménard, University of Paris, France)

“This book provides a framework to analyze the modernization of European urban water systems in Europe. Particular care is devoted to the influence of the evolving institutional framework as well as sustainability issues and political dimensions without forgetting theoretical considerations. All the elements needed to understand what is going on …” (Stéphane Saussier, University of Paris, France)