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Environment, Politics and Development Research Group

Francesca Greco

Francesca Greco

PhD Student

King's College London
United Kingdon



Virtual water paradox and the hydro–metabolism of nations


Dr Daanish Mustafa and Professor Tony Allan


Francesca’s doctoral research focuses on testing the relevance of exports of food commodities from arid countries using non renewable water sources to the benefit of the global consumer’s market. In doing this she will explore the applicability of two new concepts: the “virtual water paradox ” (also considered as “bad virtual water”) and the “hydro –metabolism of nations” , a concept deriving from socio-economic metabolism and historical materialism theories. The purpose of the study is to increase the understanding of the role that virtual water trade has silently played in a global consumers’ market, in water ethics, social inequality and indigenous people’s right to water. The theoretical background will take from  the power-analysis of the London Water Research Group, the virtual water and water footprint theories, and expand those inputs into the analysis of the water-food-trade nexus. Case studies will be based on field research regarding virtual water trade in Italy and Spain while secondary data analysis will also include the Middle East and North Africa region and some particularly paradigmatic cases from Peru and China.

Groundwater over-exploitation and non-renewable groundwater will be the focus of her case studies. Virtual water trade in Italy and Mediterranean Countries will be analyzed in order to provide a sound background of her field research.

Main research questions: why do we eat other people’s water? To which extent is it right?To which extent is it sustainable? For whom? Local people? world consumers? International markets?  If any of the current virtual water trade patterns should be questioned, where to start from? What are the most dangerous case studies depleting local non-renewable groundwaters we are not at all aware of? She will start answering these questions investigating Italy and she will then  go beyond, providing a global perspective on her research topic.


Francesca was born in Rome, Italy in 1978. She had been a student of International Relations and Diplomacy at the University of Bologna and completed her MSc in Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. 

Francesca started investigating groundwater in the Middle East since 2002, collaborating with the Italian Research Council (CNR) and then joining the London Water Research Group. She has also been researching for CUAHSI (Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science), in the USA, a NSF sponsored consortium of 125 universities providing support for the study of the terrestrial components and processes of the global water cycle. She started her PhD at King’s College London in 2010 . She worked for UNESCO in Ghana, FAO in Italy, and as a consultant for WWF in Italy on EU funded programs. 

Francesca is currently working at UNESCO, WWAP - World Water Assessment Programme of the United Nations, as gender focal point and person in charge of Regional Political Processes and Fundraising.


L'acqua virtuale in Italia: tipologie e sostenibilità - (co-authored with Marta Antonelli) in - "Il libro blu sullo spreco dell'acqua in Italia " - edizioni ambiente- Bologna 2012 ( in Italian)

Tapping Environmental History to Recreate America’s Colonial Hydrology" - ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY / VOL. 44, NO. 23, 2010 - co-authored

The Disi aquifer in Jordan: an external/internal analysis-Water International, December 2008

Co-authored *The WWF-Congo RDC best practices in the field of eco-tourism and environmental preservation- an experience in Abruzzo 2008

“De Rerum Natura- n. 03 /2008 Italy ( in Italian) *Giordania, vecchie politiche idriche causeranno un pesante bilancio ambientale, in “Afriche e Orienti”no 3 / 4 year V (2003); ( in Italian)  


The application of the TWINS model of analysis to the Jordanian/Saudi Arabia water dispute, June 2008, London School of Economics, London Water Research Group “ London“ 

Exploring Hydrologic Dynamics During the Colonial Era in the Northeastern United States. Poster presented at the CUAHSI BiennialColloquium on Hydrologic Science and Engineering, July 2008, Boulder CO. 

Co-authored *Humans in BiogeophysicalModels:Colonial Period Human-Environment Interactions in the Northeastern United States. 

Poster presented at the American Geophysical Union AnnualMeeting, December 2008, San Francisco CA. 

Co-authored *Water and Environment: the Disi aquifer case in Jordan, Second World Congress on Middle Eastern Studies, WOCMES 2 - June 2006 Amman, Jordan – in conference proceeding

*Hydro-hegemony and Hydro-politicalComplexes. A Preliminary Assessment of the West Africa Case, LondonWater Issue Group SOAS/King’s College

co-authored *The securitization of the Disi aquifer: a silent conflict between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Occasional paper no. 74, presented in the occasion of the First Hydro-HegemonyWorkshop SOAS/King’s College Water Issue Group - May 2005“ 

*La Diga dell’Unita’ e l’acquedotto Disi-Amman: due casi di messa in sicurezza delle risorse idriche in Medio Oriente,  IPALMO  journal “ Politica Internazionale”  June 2005; (In Italian) Research papers for international institutions: 

“The Right Based Approach to water: mainstreaming in the EMPOWERS project”, Care International UK ;2003 – internal research paper *The International Cooperation between Italy and Jordan 1967-2000, Italian Embassy in Amman (Jordan), Cooperation Office- internal research paper 2002 

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