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The present paper builds on the proceedings of a NARBO seminar in Malang, East Java, in June 2011, where a discussion was held about 'secrets' of successful RBOs. The 'secrets' include, in random order,
• political support;
• good stakeholder relations; and
• good leadership.

Between them, they may provide a necessary and sufficient basis for successful operation. An RBO can be characterized by its mandate (geographic coverage and tasks); authority (formal and informal); and capacity (management, staff, expertise, tools and budget).
Balance must be provided and maintained between mandate, authority and capacity. Otherwise, the RBO will struggle to undertake its tasks and meet the expectations to its performance.
It is often seen that the mandate evolves in the course of time, in response to new concerns and new opportunities. If so, it is important that authority and capacity are adjusted accordingly.
The 'informal authority' of the RBO reflects the respect and confidence, and hereby support it enjoys from decision-makers, water users and other stakeholders. Informal and formal authority are not directly related.

A high informal authority is an asset for any RBO. A council or committee, perhaps without much formal authority, cannot operate without it. A government RBO and a corporate RBO might just survive, but will face serious difficulties as soon as it comes to implementation.
Good performance and high informal authority depend on each other and can develop in parallel. The interaction can be supported by a high credibility; a suitable visibility; and a certain momentum.