The perceived need for participation of customers in planning of large projects has spawned an extensive literature on the subject and, at least in Western countries, many specialists offering consultation as a service. This paper puts the view that for consultation to be more effective it must provide true participation by customers, including the possibility that the subject project might not proceed in the form its proponents expect. Three water project case studies are described: one where there was deep engagement with customers, another where a more superficial approach was used, and a third which applies consultation concepts to what is probably the world's most pressing issue in water resource management.

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