Six recent publications by the International Water Association underscore the growing importance of quantitative studies of water utilities for identifying (1) performance patterns, (2) trends in key indicators and (3) best practice. Since each author takes a different approach to the problem of performance measurement and incentives for improvement, the books provide different perspectives on the decision-relevance of empirical analysis and cases for managers and policymakers. Key lessons from the volumes include the use of benchmarking as a tool for establishing better internal incentives, the importance of data collection and auditing and the role of transparency in helping stakeholders become more informed about utility operations. Analysts need to help stakeholders understand sector complexities, where hydrology, topology, historical developments outside current management's control, population income levels and the amount of skilled labor differ widely across and even within nations. The six books taken together underscore the value of quantifying relative performance and improving our awareness of production processes and the institutional arrangements that support strong water sector performance.