Around the world, conventional public providers of water are failing to serve the urban areas with an effective and safe supply. Providing water for one or two hours, sometimes every other day, does not ensure public health, let alone deliver the convenience that users desire and are often willing to pay for. Delivering an inadequate, subsidized service to the richer areas and allowing, by default, the informal private sector to charge the poorest between ten and twenty times as much by volume is not a satisfactory policy. What should be the role of government in ensuring the safe provision of this basic need to the urban areas of developing countries, particularly to the poorest? Can the new approach of involving multi-national private operators deliver the necessary service at a reasonable and affordable cost? Based on their multi-country research, the authors consider whether governments can undertake their new role of economic regulation in the sector, while acting as a partner to the private sector in the provision of water supply, and consider how governments can develop the necessary capacity to ensure service to all.