Academic Profile

Dr Rob Hope is an 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 a development economist 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'.

He has won competitive research grants from UK research councils (ESRC, NERC), DFID, UNICEF, John Fell Fund and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. The research has featured in international media including BBC television, radio and online. He is Director of the REACH: Improving water security for the poor programme (DFID, 2015-2022) and the Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development project (NERC/ESRC/DFID, 2015-19). He also leads ESRC/DFID and UNICEF grants.

His earlier 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.

Water Security, Growth and Development

Improved understanding of water risks and institutional responses against competing growth and development goals is central to promoting growth with socially and environmentally-responsible outcomes. Growth often aligns where risks are high in emerging economies with nascent institutions, rapid population growth, unpredictable climates, chronic poverty and an infrastructural deficit. This thematic area develops and tests interdisciplinary tools and new frameworks that explicitly recognise the role enterprise can make in promoting responsible and socially-acceptable environmental and development change. Signature projects include REACH: Improving water security for the poor (2015-22) and GRo for GooD (2015-19).

Smart Water Systems

The convergence of mobile network coverage, mobile handset ownership, mobile money platforms and smart meters has advanced new approaches to promote water security for the poor. Established in 2009, Dr Hope leads a cross-departmental group of a dozen researchers with Engineering Science working with the mobile industry, mining, agriculture, UNICEF and governments in Africa and Asia. The work has includes Smart Handpumps which have dramatically improved the policy and practice of rural water sustainability. New work uses new methodologies to improve groundwater monitoring. Related work on water payment behaviours is promoting novel financial models in urban and rural contexts. Signature projects include ESRC/DFID (2012-17) and UNICEF (2014-16).

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

Alexander Fischer

Do new information flows influence better water institutions in fragile states? Exploring the contingent relationships between decision-makers and measurement technologies

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

Ranu Sinha

Pathways to Water Security: Evaluating the impacts of irrigation investments in Madhya Pradesh, India

Recent Graduate Research Students (since 2006)

Timothy Foster
Completed DPhil in 2016

From cash flows to water flows: an assessment of financial risks to rural water supply sustainability in sub-Saharan Africa

Alexandra Girard
Completed DPhil in 2014

Women and work in irrigated landscapes in rural India

Aaron Krolikowski
Completed DPhil in 2014

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

Alex Money
Completed DPhil in 2014

Corporate water risk and return

Alvar Closas
Completed DPhil in 2013

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

Caroline King
Completed DPhil in 2012

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

Selected Publications

  • View Dr Rob Hope's ORCID profile
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