Dr Johanna Koehler

Honorary Research Associate


Dr Johanna Koehler is an Honorary Research Associate at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford. She is Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy and Governance at the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research interests include sustainable water services and net-zero energy transitions. She investigates how risks and responsibilities can be re-allocated in hybrid governance arrangements between the state, market, and communities. She focuses on the interplay of water risks and institutional change as well as new professional water service delivery models emerging across sub-Saharan Africa. Theoretically, her work advances institutional theory of risk; methodologically, she uses qualitative and quantitative methods, including experiments, to understand social and institutional behaviours with regard to environmental governance, working with governments, the private sector, and end users. 

She leads projects as PI funded by GCRF (2019-21) and the Dutch Research Council (2022-25) and has worked as researcher on projects funded by FCDO, USAID, ESRC, and UNICEF. For her DPhil (2014-18) in Geography and the Environment she was awarded the University of Oxford Clarendon Scholarship. Since 2018 she has also been a Research Fellow at Christ Church. She is an Academic Editor of PLOS Water and also a member of the Amsterdam Young Academy.  

Johanna is a co-lead of the Water Policy Module in the department’s MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management and she currently co-supervises four PhD students, including Andrew Armstrong at the School of Geography and the Environment (Oxford).

She is co-founder of a business model for maintaining drinking water infrastructure in marginalised areas of Kenya, FundiFix Ltd., which serves over 80,000 people with reliable water services. Her research on sharing water-related risks between the public and private sectors and communities was taken up in Kenya’s Water Act 2016. The model has since been scaled up by UNICEF in Bangladesh and is part of the wider Uptime consortium of service providers maintaining rural water infrastructure across Africa.

Selected Publications

Journal articles

Koehler, J., Thomson, P., Goodall, S., Katuva, J. and Hope, R. (2020) Institutional pluralism and water user behavior in rural AfricaWorld Development. 105231.

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

Koehler, J. (2018) Exploring policy perceptions and responsibility of devolved decision-making for water service delivery in Kenya’s 47 county governmentsGeoforum, 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 changeGlobal Environmental Change, 50: 268-277.

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

Koehler, J., Thomson, P. and Hope, R. (2015) Pump-priming payments for sustainable water services in rural AfricaWorld Development, 74: 397-411.

Book Chapters

Koehler, J., Thomson, P. and Hope, R. (2016) Mobilizing Payments for Water Service Sustainability. Chap. 6 in, Thomas, E.A. (ed.) Broken Pumps and Promises: Incentivizing Impact in Environmental Health. Springer International Publishing. pp. 57-76. ISBN: 978-3-319-28641-9.