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

REACH: Improving water security for the poor

REACH is a global research programme to improve water security for over 5 million poor people in Africa and South Asia. Oxford University is leading a global science-practitioner partnership to generate new evidence on water security and help guide investment and design policies and practices that benefit the poor. REACH is funded by the UK Government Department for International Development.

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 is developing 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.

Managing Development and Infrastructure: Understanding state engagements with rural communities

The research seeks to understand how government administrators engage with rural households around infrastructure and development projects such as the World Bank’s Sustainable Livelihoods Project and the Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper mega-mine.

Understanding policy needs and regional cooperation opportunities for improving water allocations in the Middle East: The case of Jordan

The project aims to develop a programme and consortium to enable future research into, and pilot implementation of, agricultural productivity instruments that will allow for a superior allocation of Jordan’s scarce water resources in terms of productivity and growth opportunities. It builds on ‘Delivering Food and Water Security in a Middle East in Flux’ project led by Michael Gilmont.

Delivering Food and Water Security in a Middle East in Flux – Insights from Israel and transferable lessons for Jordan and Palestine (DeFWS)

In Jordan and Palestine, water scarcity and food insecurity are increasingly understood as existential threats to human security and the natural environment. Israel, which shares a similar geography, has managed to increase agricultural production while reducing pressure on water resources through modifications to agricultural composition and practices. This research analyses the scope for Jordan and Palestine to similarly ‘decouple’ trends in economic and population growth from water usage. The project is funded by the British Council Institutional Links Programme, and is a partnership between Oxford University, Ecopeace (Tel Aviv and Bethlehem) and the West Asia North Africa (WANA) Institute (Amman).

Mobile payment systems to reduce rural water risks in Africa

Community management of handpumps has been the accepted mode of thinking for rural water supply over three decades in Africa. This research project aims to improve handpump management by insuring payment risks.

Does intermittent quality of water supply due to broken handpumps influence diarrhoeal disease incident in rural Kenya?

This project seeks to determine the repair interval critical for health in the operation, maintenance and repair of handpumps for domestic water supply in rural Africa, using an innovative epidemiological design, triggered by handpump failures. This work will also inform the wider field of understanding the health impacts of unreliable water supplies and the challenges of modelling the health risks faced by rural communities.

Economics of coastal hazards

EcosHaz is a research and knowledge project developing a framework to assess the costs and benefits of prevention and response to coastal hazards such as flooding, shoreline erosion, storm surges, sea level rise and oil spill accidents.

Insuring against rural water risks in Africa

This project is designing a replicable, sustainable and financially-sound rural water supply model to benefit poor people across rural Africa by transforming water user payment behaviours. ‘Smart handpumps’ deliver automatic and reliable information on handpump use, providing a new model for handpump maintenance services.

Rural water sustainability in Africa

This partnership with UNICEF builds on the Oxford team’s work in piloting a new model that ensures improved reliability and sustainability for community handpumps, providing drinking water to the poorest and most marginalised people. Researchers are designing and testing a scalar and replicable model for the sustainable delivery of rural water services, including a pre-payment system that underpins a business model for long-term, local sustainability.


  • Dr Marina Korzenevica-Proud
  • Dr Ariell Ahearn
  • Saskia Nowicki
  • Catherine Fallon Grasham
  • Ranu Sinha
  • Safa Fanaian
  • Rebecca Peters
  • Daniel Adshead
  • Dr Adam Webster
  • Barnaby Dye
  • Jesper Svensson
  • Aman Majid
  • Dr Dustin Garrick
  • Dr Sonia Ferdous Hoque
  • Dr Paola Ballon
  • Dr Cathy Baldwin
  • Kevin Grecksch
  • Professor Robert Hahn
  • Nancy Gladstone
  • Alex Fischer
  • Ben Caldecott
  • Dr Atif Ansar
  • Farah Colchester
  • Dr Michael Gilmont
  • Thanti Octavianti
  • Jacob Katuva
  • Dr Johanna Koehler
  • Dr Katrina Charles
  • Dr Kevin Wheeler
  • Dr Chris Decker
  • Dr Edoardo Borgomeo
  • Professor David Thomas
  • Dr Alex Money
  • Professor David Bradley
  • Michael J Rouse CBE
  • Shauna Monkman
  • Dr Laura Rival
  • Professor Andrew Wilson
  • Patrick Thomson
  • Prof Robert Hope
  • Dr David Johnstone
  • Professor David Grey
  • Dr Christine McCulloch