Water and Politics

Clientelism and Reform in Urban Mexico
Veronica Herrera
Examines how public water service becomes a political tool in Mexican cities and uncovers the politics of water provision in developing democracies


Most of the world’s population lives in cities in developing countries, where access to basic public services, such as water, electricity, and health clinics, is either inadequate or sorely missing. Through the lens of urban water provision, this book shows how politicians fail to provide reliable and high quality public services because they often benefit politically from manipulating public service provision for electoral gain. In many young democracies, politicians exchange water service for votes or political support, attempting to reward allies or punish political enemies. Surprisingly, the political problem of water provision has become more pronounced in many young democracies, as water service represents a valuable political currency in resource-scarce environments.

When do politicians forgo the clientelistic manipulation of water services and invest in programmatic and universal service provision? Water and Politics finds that middle-class and industrial elites play an important role in generating pressure for public service reforms. Based on extensive field research and combining process tracing with a subnational comparative analysis of eight Mexican cities, Water and Politics constructs a framework for understanding the construction of universal service provision in these weak institutional settings.

Water and Politics explains the politics of multiple pathways to the provision of basic public services—a key issue both for equity and governance. The analysis expertly distills the key factors that shape very different urban water provision outcomes.”
—Jonathan Fox, author of Accountability Politics: Power and Voice in Rural Mexico

“This fascinating and resonant study makes important contributions to the comparative politics of developing countries as well as to normative debates about the possibilities for better governance of public services there. Politics at the urban scale has been pivotal for effective reform in these settings. This book casts new light on how and why.”
—Jeffrey Sellers, University of Southern California

Veronica Herrera is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut.

Praise / Awards

  • "Fills a gap in the literature on reform by solving a puzzle not explained in previous research, which has tended to focus on the role of crisis, ideology, robust citizen networks, strong leadership, and electoral competition...Recommended"
    --Choice Reviews
  • "Water and Politics brings new empirical insight and understanding about the provision of public services through the experience of water and sanitation reforms in Mexico following democratization. Its analysis is relevant for academics, policymakers, government leaders, and
    development practitioners alike."
    --Environment & Urbanization
  • "Herrera has written an important book. It illuminates a crucial and hitherto undiscovered dynamic in a crucial policy domain."
    --Latin American Politics and Society
  • "A refreshing effort to unravel the issue of why young democracies can bring about either modern, accountable, and effective governments or deficient, unreliable, and clientelistic ones."
    --Perspectives on Politics
  • "While few studies have examined how public services – water and sanitation especially – become part of clientelistic and patronage based relationships, this book offers an enriching understanding of the key factors that shape these relationships."
    --Journal of Developmental Studies
  • "Herrera is a political scientist, but her study fits well with historians’ increasing attention to long-standing connections between water, infrastructure, and politics in
    cities and their hinterlands in Latin America."
    --Hispanic American Historical Review
  • Winner of APSA’s Dennis Judd Best Book Award

Look Inside

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Veronica Herrera piece for The Conversation Link | 3/6/2018
Read: Veronica Herrera interviewed for the World Policy Journal Link | 8/25/2017
Read: Veronica Herrera interviewed for the Swarthmore College Bulletin Link | 8/2/2017
Read/listen: Veronica Herrera interviewed for 1400 am Connecticut radio Link | 6/18/2017
Read: Veronica Herrera interviewed for UConn Today Link | 5/18/2017
Listen: Veronica Herrera interviewed for the New Books Network Link | 3/6/2017
Read: Veronica Herrera in the Washington Post Monkey Cage Link | 2/28/2017

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 280pp.
  • 11 tables, 3 figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2017
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-13032-0

Add to Cart
  • $75.00 U.S.

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  • water, government performance, local reforms, decentralization, clientelism, democratization, public utilities, market, commercialization, programmatic