Francesca approaches the Middle East water question from a cultural-historical perspective, tracing the history of water use in different parts of the region from ancient times and identifying changing narratives of water.

The Middle East – North Africa region is naturally water scarce. Through history, people here adapted to the arid conditions by developing sophisticated techniques of water collection and distribution. Through careful management, the region’s fragile ecological balance was maintained and water was valued as a precious resource. However, far-reaching changes over the last century – rapid population growth, technological advances and the massive expansion and intensification of irrigated agriculture – have damaged and destroyed much of the region’s water resources and landscapes.

Over the years, Francesca written extensively on the changing water culture of the Middle East and given numerous presentations in academic context and for wider audiences.

Articles and conference papers
- ‘Perceptions of Water in the Middle East: the Role of Religion, Politics and Technology in Concealing the Growing Water Scarcity’. In: Water Resources in the Middle East, Israel-Palestinian Water Issues – From Conflict to Cooperation. Shuval, H. & Dweik, H. (eds.), Springer, Heidelberg.

- Schoenfeld, S., Abitbol, E., de Châtel, F. 2007. ‘Retelling the Story of Water in the Middle East, Reflections about a Conversation at the Dead Sea’. In: Proceedings of the NATO ASI, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Springer, Dordrecht.

- ‘A Threatened Underground Heritage: the Qanats of the Middle East’. Lecture and debate, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, 15 April 2008.

- ‘Water in the Middle East: an Undervalued Resource’. Public lecture, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, 15 April 2008.

- ‘Perceptions of Water in the Middle East’. Lecture for Syrian water experts and foreign consultants. Netherlands Institute for Academic Studies in Damascus (NIASD), Syria, 3 May 2007.

- ‘Integrated Water Resource Management and Security in the Middle East’. NATO Advanced Study Institute, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Kibbutz Ketura, Israel, 6-17 February 2006.

- ‘Perceptions of Water in the Middle East: the Role of Religion, Politics and Technology in Concealing the Growing Water Scarcity’. 2nd Israeli-Palestinian Water Conference Water for Life in the Middle East. Antalya, Turkey, 10-14 October 2004.

General audience lectures on water and the Middle East:

- ‘Striking Syria. What is the conflict doing to Syrians?’ Joint lecture at the Studium Generale of Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, The Netherlands, 8 October 2013.

- ‘De Arabische lente in Syrië’. Panel debate, Mezrab, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 4 August 2011. 

- ‘Water Sheikhs and Dam Builders, Stories of People and Water in the Middle East’. Workshop at the Studium Generale, Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 16 November 2005.