Conflict Resolution: Benchmarking Water Utility Performance

Public Administration and Development, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 1-11, 2007

15 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2008

See all articles by Sanford V. Berg

Sanford V. Berg

University of Florida - Department of Economics


The water sector has economic and symbolic importance for citizens in developing countries. Water utility benchmarking is no panacea for improving water sector performance. Nevertheless, it can contribute to addressing four sources of conflict in the design and implementation of policies: cognitive conflicts (based on technical disagreements regarding how data might be analyzed and interpreted), interest conflicts (where suppliers and demanders obtain different benefits and costs under alternative policies), values conflicts (involving ideology or personal preferences regarding water sector outcomes), and authority conflicts (stemming from jurisdictional disagreements over who has the last word). These potential sources of conflict characterize most politically-charged situations, including water supply management. This paper examines the extent to which water utility benchmarking facilitates conflict resolution. Without information on historical trends, current baselines, and realistic targets, conflicts over reforms to improve sector performance can weaken systems that are already fragile, particularly those in developing countries. This paper attempts to improve our understanding of the links between sources of conflict, government approaches for dealing with conflict, and the role of water utility benchmarking as a complementary strategy for addressing policy issues. Benchmarking is one way regulators and managers can promote conflict resolution that allows participants to focus on performance. The principles apply to all sectors with significant state oversight.

Keywords: benchmarking, conflict resolution, water, sanitation, infrastructure

Suggested Citation

Berg, Sanford V., Conflict Resolution: Benchmarking Water Utility Performance. Available at SSRN:

Sanford V. Berg (Contact Author)

University of Florida - Department of Economics ( email )

Gainesville, FL 32611-7140
United States
352-392-0132 (Phone)
352-392-7796 (Fax)


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