Measuring Information Transparency in the Water Sector

What Story Do the Indicators Tell?


Lucia De Stefano Universidad Complutense de MadridVanessa Empinotti Universidade Federal do ABCLuisa Schmidt Universidade de Lisboa Pedro R. Jacobi Universidade de São PauloJosé Gomes Ferreira Universidade de LisboaJoão Guerra Universidade de Lisboa


Index, Indicator, Transparency, Water Governance, Participation, Accountability, Information


Indicators and benchmarking initiatives are considered to be powerful instruments for identifying
and communicating the need for change and for gauging performance of policy responses.
During the past few decades, water-related indicators have increasingly broadened their scope
from merely measuring bio-physical parameters to assessing different aspects of water governance.
Designing meaningful governance indicators, however, has proven to be a challenging task. In
this paper we start from an index of information transparency (calculated for Brazil, Portugal and
Spain) to explore how such an index can contribute to a better understanding of the functioning of
the water sector in a given country. We argue that, despite all its limitations, a transparency index
can be a useful entry point for a diagnosis of gaps and strengths of the water sector, provided that
its interpretation is rooted in the country’s institutional context. Such a diagnosis can reveal that
the lack of transparency is partially due to the fact that water institutions are still building their
capacity to reach out to the society or that competences on water issues are distributed among a
broad array of actors. Our analysis confirms that the results of governance indices are a
doubleedged sword, as they do trigger and feed public debate about institutional reform, but they can
also become an excuse for implementing superficial changes that merely meet formal requirements.


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How to Cite

De Stefano, L., Empinotti, V. ., Schmidt, L. ., Jacobi, . P. R. ., Ferreira, J. G. ., & Guerra, J. . (2016). Measuring Information Transparency in the Water Sector: What Story Do the Indicators Tell?. International Journal of Water Governance, 4, 1–21. Retrieved from



Research Article

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