Water specialists are accustomed to analysing the mandates of public institutions, but much less so the internal characteristics of corporations. Yet, companies are leading ‘institutions’ of the private sector, and their forms and their partnership transactions in water management deserve more attention, given the importance of water to lives/livelihoods, environments, and local and regional development.
This ODI Briefing Paper discusses the key role of private companies in reducing water use in their own plants and premises and their supply chains. As for private companies’ engagement in wider water management, it argues for care in the design of institutional arrangements. Alongside private involvement, the public and collective good characteristics of water must be secured.It posits that the current design of private sector ‘institutions’ for water management in developing countries presents both a potential water management opportunity and a serious water risk, and describes some corporate and transactional tools that could tackle the current design gap in the private sector’s contribution to ‘making water sustainability a priority’.