Academic Profile

Dr Rob Hope is a Departmental Research Lecturer and Associate Professor at the School of Geography and the Environment and Director of the Water Programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. He is an economic geographer with expertise in water economics and development policy. His work applies economic theory and techniques in the measurement, design and evaluation of policies and interventions which promote improved environmental and social outcomes. This includes theoretical advances in behavioural economics and social choice theory, methodological progress in interdisciplinary water research, and leadership in establishing Oxford's cross-department research group working on 'Smart Water Systems'. In 2009 he co-led the establishment and funding of Oxford Water Network which includes over 70 faculty and researchers. Since 2010 he has won over 1 million of competitive research grants for this research group from UK research councils (ESRC, NERC), DFID, John Fell Fund and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. The research has featured in international media including BBC television, radio and online; The Guardian identified 'smart handpumps' as one of the 12 development innovations of 2012. His wider work has been funded by World Bank, OECD and Gates Foundation for projects in Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. He previously directed Oxford's MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management (2006-13) and continues to teach water economics, development policy and research design.

Current Research

Rob's research examines the relationship between water access and human development. He has worked on several, large interdisciplinary teams (hydrology, engineering, economics, political science, anthropology) on catchment/basin management and sustainable water supply services in India and sub-Saharan Africa. The analytical approaches that shape this work relate to how social choices influence human behaviour, project performance and developmental impacts both at the local level and in terms of shaping public policy to promote more sustainable and evidence-based interventions at scale.

Mobile Water for Development

Delivering a sufficient, reliable and affordable supply of safe water is an enduring public policy challenge. Rob is leading an interdisciplinary, cross-departmental research cluster that sets out to design, build and evaluate mobile technology innovations for water security called mobile/water for development. The cluster have recently completed a cross-country analysis of mobile water payment innovations in urban Africa and have started the first global studies that are testing 'smart handpumps' in rural Kenya and Zambia. They are also examining how 'smart river systems' may be designed to negotiate fairer and more sustainable outcomes in Kenya under increasing hydro-climatic risk and competing water demands.

Negotiating Ecosystems Services

Making informed choices about ecosystems and their services is central to the political economy of managing environmental and societal change. Understanding local uses and associated values of complex and dynamic ecosystem services (biodiversity, water, carbon) will shape potential interventions to reward or deter behavioural responses that may lead to sub-optimal outcomes for people and nature. Rob continues to work on several initiatives that conduct exploratory experimental analysis of future scenarios of ecosystem change based on empirical analysis of social preferences and priorities (ex-ante). This work includes different initiatives around payments/incentives for ecosystem services to guide policy in understanding the trade-offs in the elusive but important global initiatives for poverty reduction and ecosystem conservation (i.e. ESPA, REDD+, PES). His work also considers institutional economics and developmental impacts (ex-post) of competing models of water management in irrigation systems, wetlands and forested catchments in various countries.

Selected Research Projects


Postgraduate teaching for MSc and DPhil students:

  • Water and Development
  • Socio-political Nature of Water
  • Water Economics
  • Research Methods

Current Graduate Research Students

Timothy Foster

Financial analysis of rural water sustainability in Africa

Kathleen Hansen

A social-ecological systems analaysis of rescaled water governance in South Africa

Jacob Katuva

Geospatially distributed impacts of mining and irrigation on water growth and development in Kwale, Kenya

Johanna Koehler

Democracy, decentralisation and development in Kenya: an assessment of structural change in the water sector

Recent Graduate Research Students (since 2006)

Alexandra Girard
Completed in 2014

Women and work in irrigated landscapes in rural India

Aaron Krolikowski
Completed in 2014

Mobile-enabled payments methods and public service delivery in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Alex Money
Completed in 2014

Corporate water risk and return

Alvar Closas
Completed in 2013

Burning water - the state, irrigation technology and the production of scarcity in Spain

Caroline King
Completed in 2012

Living with environmental change in the endorheic oasis systems of the northern Sahara

Selected Publications

Publications are those that were listed on the old website. Publications database integration forthcoming.