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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doi.org/10.7564/15-IJWG97
International Journal of Water Governance, Regular issue (Volume 4)

Lucia De Stefano, Vanessa Empinotti, Luisa Schmidt, Pedro R. Jacobi, José Gomes Ferreira, & João Guerra. (2016). Measuring Information Transparency in the Water Sector: What Story Do the Indicators Tell?. Regular issue, 2016(4:10), 1–22. doi:10.7564/15-IJWG97