In many countries growing water scarcity puts pressure on the irrigation sector, as main consumptive user, to improve performance. In this context, the need for research on institutional policy options for improved water allocation and governance is more and more recognized. Exante evaluation of institutional changes, such as reforms in water rights systems, is however a challenging task. In this article two case studies are considered. Choice modelling is used to evaluate the preferences of irrigators in India and South Africa for different water rights configurations. By comparing the results of both case studies insight is gained on the effects of context specific factors. Both the information from the individual choice experiments as the comparison across cases reveals interesting information for policy makers to guide institutional reforms.