Italian water services reform, started in 1994, has been surrounded by a lively debate on water management models; however, the story of the reform is difficult to understand if only those models chosen by local public agencies are considered. This paper provides a general picture of the reform, analyzes the decision-making process and presents a map of local outcomes. The decision-making analysis considers the course of action taken by the actors involved in reform from 1994 to 2008, and summarizes the events into three rounds. The map of the local modes of governance is focused on the relationship between local authorities and utilities, and has been realized through a collection of data from the 91 areas in which the national system has been reorganized, which has allowed the definition of four ideal types of outcome. The analysis shows that the range of solutions is wider (and the boundaries between them more ambiguous) than commonly assumed by the mainstream national debate which appears to overestimate the role of tools and of formal instruments, and, conversely, to underestimate the real and differentiated abilities and power of the actors in the water sector.

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