Abstract: The failure or success of providing public services like drinking water through different institutional arrangements may depend crucially and in a non-trivial way from the administrative capacity. A strand of literature deals with this question and what administrative capacities are required for governments to adapt to these situations (Brown and Potoski (2003)). Initially, pre-existing administrative capacities will impact on the decision to organize a public service through direct public management or otherwise. In addition, administrative capacities developed through the provision process, once the governance structure is decided, will also impact on the service performance and at the end, on the willingness to switch from one governance structure to another. The objective of the three case studies, looking carefully at three cities (Stuttgart – Germany, Montréal – Canada, and Brest – France), is to highlight key features of such relationships between administrative capacity and choices made by cities to organize their water public services.