While the world succeeded in meeting the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people without access to improved water sources, many were left behind. As the new Sustainable Development Goals aim to reach universal access by 2030, this article assesses the shortcomings of the MDGs and identifies factors that explain progress for the hardest to reach: the rural poor. The article draws on newly available data on water access by wealth quintiles and finds that rural governance quality is more important for extending water access to the rural poor than to the rich. Government capacity to design and implement policy is particularly important. This article extends the research on inequities in global development progress and the distributive effects of governance quality in development outcomes.