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. Water and Politics shows how politicians benefit politically from manipulating public service provision for electoral gain. In many young democracies, politicians exchange water service for votes or political support, rewarding allies or punishing political enemies. Surprisingly, the political problem of water provision has become more pronounced, as water service represents a valuable political currency in resource-scarce environments.

Water and Politics finds that middle-class and industrial elites play an important role in generating pressure for public service reforms.


Veronica Herrera is a Political Scientist and Assistant Professor at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, Urban Planning.

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
  • "An important contribution to the understanding of formal and informal political processes, showing how they are fundamentally interrelated ... Very few serious empirical analyses dare to delve into both political and administrative complexities, yet Herrera amply demonstrates the importance of so doing."
    --International Journal of Urban and Regional Research
  • Winner: American Political Science Association (APSA) 2018 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

  • 280 pages.
  • 11 tables, 3 figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2017
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12272-1

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