The right to water (rtw) is a major concern in current discussions about global challenges. Several NGOs, as well as international organisations, are involved in this political issue. On a scholarly level the discourse is accompanied primarily by jurisprudence reasoning the dogmatic question of social rights. Although already well established in the context of international declarations, the discussion on rtw is, in general, still awaiting a (national) implementation perspective. Hence, the question arises as to what exactly the concrete, litigable content of a rtw might be and how inevitable limits to this right might be set and justified. This article offers an institutional economics perspective on this problem of concretion. If the concern of a right to water is to be reduced in practice, it would be helpful to take overall objectives of potable water allocation seriously that might be at odds with the social concern of sufficient water supply. These competing objectives are economic efficiency, ecologic sustainability, and financial sustainability. The coordination of competing interests and requirements, including feedback effects in the long-run, may contribute to a more precise shaping of a rtw, which is still rather vague and therefore effete in practice. Thus, a rtw can hardly ever be an unconditional right. Starting from an analysis of international declarations′ calls for a rtw the category of ‘access’ can be considered the most crucial one. From an institutional economics viewpoint access can be defined as a ‘succeeding contract’ between consumer and supplier. This ‘contract’ has to comply with rtw conditions that may be set by simple acts of parliament, especially regarding various aspects of the service level. From such a perspective it becomes obvious that limitations of access are potentially functional and even desirable as other objectives of water allocation are only attainable in such a manner. This holds true particularly for limitations on access (i. e. exclusion effects) of water pricing which fulfills a number of essential functions in the allocation of potable water. Furthermore, it is analysed whether or not a rtw in Germany already might be infringed upon by pricing rules or suspension of deliveries in case of refusal of payment. Finally, the common proposition is critically reflected whether privatisation of water supply is in general at odds with the requirements of a rtw.