Academic Profile

Professor Rob Hope is Director of the Water Security Initiative at the School of Geography and the Environment, Director of the Water Programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, and Lead of the Smart Water Systems group (with Engineering Science). His research interests focus on water policy, poverty and economics, largely in Africa and Asia. He is Director of the REACH programme, a member of ESRC’s International Development Expert Group for the Global Challenges Research Programme, and is a member of an expert consultative group on global monitoring and WASH affordability convened by UNICEF and the WHO. In 2018, the Smart Water Systems’ group won the inaugural University of Oxford’s Vice Chancellor’s Innovation Award for the ‘smart handpumps’ project. He has won competitive research grants from the UK Research and Innovation (NERC, ESRC), DFID, UNICEF, USAID, the World Bank, the Skoll Foundation and the Gates Foundation. He teaches on the MSc Water Science, Policy and Management and supervises a small group of outstanding DPhil/PhD students. He is a founding Trustee of Water Services Maintenance Trust Fund in Kenya and is co-Director of Oxwater Ltd.

Current Research

Smart Water Systems

The Smart Water Systems group was established in 2010 as an interdisciplinary collaboration between the School of Geography and the Environment and Department of Engineering Science to explore, test and implement new models, methods and social enterprises to improve water services for the poor. Scientific expertise in development economics, institutional theory, frugal engineering and machine learning has guided new technological and methodological techniques based on mobile technologies and data analytics to inform policy and practice. Outputs of the group’s work include the world’s first ‘smart handpump’, a patent for non-intrusive, estimation of aquifer depth, the design and incubation of social enterprises in Kenya, design and legal registration of two Water Services Maintenance Trust Funds in Kenya, and wider testing and adaption of the ideas under the FundiFix model to Bangladesh and other countries facing similar challenges to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of universal and affordable water for all by 2030. The research has been featured by The Economist, BBC, Daily Telegraph, the Guardian and other global and national media. In 2015, the work was awarded the World Water Week poster prize.

A portfolio of research grants has supported this work, including:

  • Sustainable WASH Systems Learning Partnership (USAID, 2017-21)
  • Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development (NERC/ESRC/DFID, 2015-19)
  • Engineering innovations to predict handpump failure (UNICEF, Supply Division, 2016-18)
  • Rural Water Sustainability (UNICEF, East and Southern African Regional Office, 2014-16)
  • Insuring against rural water risk in Africa (ESRC/DFID, 2013-17)
  • New mobile citizens and rural waterpoint sustainability in Africa (ESRC/DFID, 2012-15)
  • Smart Water Systems (DFID, 2010-14)

Water Security for the Poor

The REACH programme aims to improve water security for at least five million poor people by 2022. Funded by UK DFID’s Research and Evidence Division, the programme is led by the University of Oxford in partnership with IFPFI, IRC, IWA, RWSN and UNICEF, and national academic, government and private sector partners in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Kenya. A risk-based approach is developing and testing interdisciplinary science in Observatory sites in the three focus countries to understand, evaluate and implement improved policy and practice to improve water security outcomes for the poor. Partnership Funding has expanded the expertise and engagement of the programme with a range of research and non-government collaborators outside the focus countries. In March 2019, Oxford will host REACH’s annual, international conference on Water Security and Poverty.

Teaching

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

Rebecca Peters

Socio-legal approaches to regulate urban river water security in South Asia

Ranu Sinha

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

Current Graduate Research Students (Department of Engineering Science)

Farah Colchester
Predicting shallow aquifer depths using smart handpumps in rural Africa (Lead supervisor: Professor Clifton, EngSci)

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

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