The present paper analyzes the relationship between perceived public service performance, trust in the government, and citizens' willingness to participate in water governance with insights into broader state–citizen relations. The study is based on a household survey conducted in June 2022 that employed a multistage stratified random sampling within the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation limits of Andhra Pradesh, a southern state of India. The analysis reveals that citizens' perception of water service delivery performance positively affects trust in water managers while negatively affecting their willingness to participate in water governance. In contrast, the citizens' trust in water managers positively correlates to their willingness to participate. Moreover, the identified correlations among the three variables elucidate a circular pattern. The intricate circular pattern observed among these three variables complicates the citizen–state relationship. Understanding and navigating this complex web of relationships is crucial for policymakers and researchers seeking to enhance citizen participation and trust in water services. The circular nature of these interactions underscores the need for holistic and integrated approaches in addressing the multifaceted dynamics within the citizen–state relationship

  • This study investigates the interplay among citizen perceptions of water service delivery, trust in water managers, and willingness to participate.

  • This study establishes evidence for mutual reciprocity among the three essentials aspects of water governance.

  • This study contributes empirically from a city of Global South.

  • Study findings are instrumental in contributing to effective water management practices, strengthening the citizen–state relationship.

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