Over the last two decades, remarkable progress in the Portuguese drinking water and wastewater services sector has been achieved. Nevertheless, it faces a serious challenge in trying to ensure long-term sustainability. There is equally scope for considerable efficiency and effectiveness gains. The national strategic plan for the period 2014–2020 has assigned a prominent role to infrastructure asset management (IAM) in the paradigm shift required in water services. This paper discusses the progress made, the critical issues and the challenges faced by the Portuguese water sector regarding IAM, based on a comparative analysis of international and national contexts. Various worldwide initiatives are presented. The main drivers to start using IAM were quite diverse. In Portugal, legislation initially contributed to attracting the attention of the sector to IAM, but LNEC, a research institute, has played a leading role in this process. The water services regulator has also been playing a very important role. The highly fragmented structure, the politicised nature of municipal water utility management and the existing accounting procedures are some of the main barriers to the spread of IAM best practices. The sector's ongoing restructuring and the new tariff regulation will be key enabling opportunities and challenges in coming years.

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