Water services face global challenges, many of which are institutional by nature. While technical solutions may suit several situations, institutional frameworks are likely to vary more. On the basis of constructive research approach and new institutional economics we analyze and illustrate water services and the roles of various water sector actors in Finnish water utility setting using the “soccer analogy” by the Nobel Laureate D.C. North: Institutions are the “formal and informal rules of the game” while organizations are the “players”. Additionally, we assess the Finnish water governance system and discuss issues of scale and fragmentation and distinguish terms water provision and production. Finally, we elaborate the limitations of the soccer analogy to water services through ownership of the systems. According to the soccer analogy, inclusive institutional development requires skillful players (competent staff), team play (collaboration), proper coaching (education), supporters (citizens, media), managers (policymakers), and referees (authorities). We argue that institutional diversity and player/stakeholder collaboration are the foundation for enhancing good multi-level water governance, and that water management, although fragmented, should be seen as a connector of different sectors. For successful outcomes, scientific results should be communicated to public in more common language.
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