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Hardcover | $9.75 Short | £8.95 | 280 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 4 maps, 3 charts, 16 graphs, 13 tables | August 2009 | ISBN: 9780262013130
Paperback | $5.75 Short | £4.95 | 280 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 4 maps, 3 charts, 16 graphs, 13 tables | August 2009 | ISBN: 9780262512978
eBook | $17.00 Short | August 2009 | ISBN: 9780262259910
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Governing the Tap

Special District Governance and the New Local Politics of Water


More than ever, Americans rely on independent special districts to provide public services. The special district—which can be as small as a low-budget mosquito abatement district or as vast as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—has become the most common form of local governance in the United States. In Governing the Tap, Megan Mullin examines the consequences of specialization and the fragmentation of policymaking authority through the lens of local drinking-water policy. Directly comparing specific conservation, land use, and contracting policies enacted by different forms of local government, Mullin investigates the capacity of special districts to engage in responsive and collaborative decision making that promotes sustainable use of water resources. She concludes that the effect of specialization is conditional on the structure of institutions and the severity of the policy problem, with specialization offering the most benefit on policy problems that are least severe. Mullin presents a political theory of specialized governance that is relevant to any of the variety of functions special districts perform. Governing the Tap offers not only the first study of how the new decentralized politics of water is taking shape in American communities, but also new and important findings about the influence of institutional structures on local policymaking.

About the Author

Megan Mullin is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Temple University, with a secondary appointment in Geography and Urban Studies.


Governing the Tap offers many arguments essential to the continued study of special districts and their ability to meet evolving societal needs and policy challenges in local water governance and beyond. It should be read by many.”—Perspectives on Politics


“Megan Mullin is a respected scholar with a reputation for doing high quality work. Governing the Tap displays her rigorous approach to water policy and governance in general. This book makes an important contribution to the study of local government and the policies that guide the world’s most limited and endangered resource. A must-read!”
Richard C. Feiock, Augustus B. Turnbull Professor of Public Administration, Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, Florida State University
“A thoughtful assessment of specialized governance, this impressive study provides a nuanced evaluation of our system of fragmented local government through a rich and rigorous consideration of local water policy. Mullin demonstrates that problem context and institutional design have important implications for how local actors make complex policy choices. This book is a must-read for scholars and practitioners interested in the increasing governance challenges facing U.S. local governments.”
Elisabeth Gerber, Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan
“This is a really great book. It is one of the best books on governance and water that I have ever read.”
Mark Lubell, Department of Political Science, University of California, Davis


Winner, 2010 Lynton Keith Caldwell Award for the best book in environmental politics and policy, awarded by the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy section of the American Political Science Association.