Multi-village schemes (MVSs) connecting hundreds of villages and small towns into a bulk water distribution network represent an emerging frontier for rural water supply in low- and middle-income countries. Conventional rural water supply approaches for such contexts often advocate community management but the scale and complexity of MVSs necessitates alternative approaches. This paper presents three case studies from India of MVSs that focus on the role of communities in their overall management. These illustrate different mechanisms in which community management can or cannot be nested within an overall management system as well as different approaches for promoting community participation. The discussion draws on political economy perspectives to suggest an explanation for the differences across these case studies, while from a public policy perspective, the paper discusses how and why MVSs may lead to the decline of community management in certain contexts.