The proliferation of urban special-district governments by private means has far-reaching consequences for the public domain. The utility district is the most rapidly growing form of government in the United States today. There are almost one thousand of these units in Texas; nearly four hundred are in the greater Houston area alone. Utility districts have been the mechanism through which suburban development has occurred over the past three decades. Millions of people live within their jurisdiction, and virtually one in the United States is unaffected by them, for their influence on the migration patterns from city to suburb has been ermous. Yet little is kwn about them, and even less has been written about their operations. This carefully documented study, which combines participant-observer research with statistical analyses and extensive interviewing, focuses on two water districts in Harris County to provide new understanding of how little governments function. Virginia Perred provides a well-reasoned theoretical explanation for the performance of special districts and draws provocative conclusions about their probable unwillingness to cooperate voluntarily to promote the welfare of the larger community. In a chapter that will be especially relevant for public officials at all levels, she proposes realistic measures to secure cooperation for the common good. This ground-breaking case study of special districts in one of America's largest and fastest-growing urban areas should stimulate further thought and research into the relationship between political structures and environmental and other public policies.