Economics & Development

Examines the role of institutions, mobile technologies, markets and behavioural change in access to water and sanitation. Research projects investigate approaches to managing water scarcity, water supply and public health, including the use of economic instruments. Researchers analyse how governance regimes operate at different spatial and temporal scales to promote or inhibit improved human development outcomes.

Some current projects

Assessing the impact of rainfall variability on water, sanitation and hygiene

We provide guidance to the World Health Organization (WHO) on designing field research to provide evidence for the impact of meteorological events (heavy rainfall and low rainfall) on water, sanitation and hygiene. This forms part of the WHO project ‘Building adaptation to climate change in health in least developed countries through resilient water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)’.

GRo for GooD: Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development

How can groundwater be sustainably managed for the benefit of the economy and the rural poor? This project aims to design and test a novel Groundwater Risk Management Tool to improve understanding of groundwater risks and help institutions better manage this critical resource. The tool will help institutions understand and make decisions based on the complex interactions and tradeoffs between economic activities, water resource demands and poverty outcomes.

Improving Water Security for the Poor

This seven-year programme funded by the UK Government Department for International Development aims to increase water security for 2.5 to 5 million poor people in Africa and Asia. A global science-practitioner partnership will design, test and replicate more effective policy, methods and technologies to improve water security and reduce poverty. A risk-based framework will be developed to assess water related risk at global, national and individual household scales. Researchers will generate data on climate, hydrology, health, poverty and demographic trends to provide an overarching context for governments and international organisations to inform future decision-making to improve water security.

Mobile/water for development: mobile payments

Mobile water payments offer a secure, low-cost and inclusive mechanism to improve the sustainability of water supply services. This project investigates the impacts and implications of mobile water payments across urban Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Mobile/water for development: smart handpumps

This project works with the Government of Zambia and UNICEF to examine how a new technology developed by Oxford University that automatically texts information on handpump use can improve reliable access to water services for the rural poor. It aims to understand how the availability of objective and reliable information on handpump performance can accelerate and maintain improved water services.

Mobile/water for development: smart rivers

This project is designing a Smart River System in the Burguret River sub-catchment, Kenya, to automatically measure abstraction on daily time-steps to determine current water use patterns, to enable new allocation systems and to protect environmental flow allocations.

Transforming water scarcity through trading

This project uses a Market Simulator approach to model the impacts of water trading in the UK and study the economic benefits, environmental consequences, opportunities for novel water resource development, and opportunities to obtain payments for ecosystem benefits.

Water Security and Sustainable Growth

Oxford University co-chairs an Expert Task Force as part of a Global Water Partnership and OECD Global Dialogue on Water Security and Sustainable Growth. The multidisciplinary team of international experts provide new evidence on the linkages between economic growth and water security – where, how, and how much water security affects growth. The Task Force analyse the dynamics of water security and growth; quantify water-related risks and opportunities and their trajectories; and assess the experience of past pathways of investment toward water security. A risk-based approach is used to identify the hazards and vulnerability of a lack of water security.


  • Susanna Goodall
  • Farah Colchester
  • Dr Michael Gilmont
  • Julian Kirchherr
  • Thanti Octavianti
  • Jacob Katuva
  • Johanna Koehler
  • Dr Katrina Charles
  • Kevin Wheeler
  • Yin Yang
  • Dr Chris Decker
  • Julián López-Murcia
  • Katy Hansen
  • Tim Foster
  • Professor David Thomas
  • Dr Alex Money
  • Haiyan Yu
  • Professor David Bradley
  • Michael J Rouse CBE
  • Shauna Monkman
  • Dr Laura Rival
  • Professor Andrew Wilson
  • Patrick Thomson
  • Dr Robert Hope
  • Dr David Johnstone
  • Professor David Grey
  • Dr Christine McCulloch
  • Dr Anna Russell
  • Dr Harry Verhoeven
  • Huijuan Wu