Dr Johanna Koehler

Postdoctoral Research Fellow


DPhil (University of Oxford), MSc (University of Oxford), BA (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Academic Background

2018-current – Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Christ Church, University of Oxford

2018-current – Researcher and Programme Manager, Water Programme, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford

2014-2018 – DPhil in Geography and the Environment on ‘Water Risks and Institutional Change in Kenya’, University of Oxford

2012-2013 – MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management with Distinction, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

2008-2011 – BA in History and International Relations with First Class Honours, Royal Holloway, University of London

Undergraduate Teaching

Geographical Controversies. I also teach qualitative and quantitative research methods and water policy on the MSc programme at the School of Geography and the Environment.

Research Interests

My research interests include political, economic and cultural geography with a focus on the drivers and processes of institutional change in the water sector. My research examines the interplay of water risks and institutional change in terms of political and institutional transformations in the water sector as well as new market-based water service delivery models emerging across sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, I investigate how risks and responsibilities can be re-conceptualised and re-allocated in pluralist arrangements between the state, market, and communities. I have conducted extensive fieldwork in East Africa, with a focus on Kenya. My work as part of the Smith School Water Programme has also contributed to developing a business model for maintaining drinking water infrastructure in marginalised areas of Kenya. In 2017, my research appeared in The Economist, and in 2018, I was joint winner as part of the Smart Water Systems’ group of the inaugural University of Oxford’s Vice Chancellor’s Innovation Award for the ‘smart handpumps’ project.


Koehler, J. (2018). Exploring policy perceptions and responsibility of devolved decision-making for water service delivery in Kenya’s 47 county governments. Geoforum, 92: 68-80.

Koehler, J., Rayner, S., Katuva, J., Thomson, P., and Hope, R. (2018). A cultural theory of drinking water risks, values and institutional change. Global Environmental Change, 50: 268-277.

Thomson, P., Bradley, D., Katilu, A., Katuva, J., Lanzoni, M., Koehler, J. and Hope, R. (2019). Rainfall and groundwater use in rural Kenya. Science of The Total Environment, 649: 722-730.

Koehler, J., Thomson, P. and Hope, R. (2016). Mobilizing Payments for Water Service Sustainability. In E. Thomas, ed., Broken Pumps and Promises: Incentivizing Impact in Environmental Health. Springer International Publishing, Switzerland, pp. 57-76.

Thomson, P. and Koehler, J. (2016). Performance-oriented Monitoring for the Water SDG – Challenges, Tensions and Opportunities. Aquatic Procedia, 6: 87-95.

Koehler, J., Thomson, P. and Hope, R. (2015). Pump-Priming Payments for Sustainable Water Services in Rural Africa. World Development, 74: 397-411.