About & Team

Water to Food represents the communication strategy of the ‘Coping with water scarcity in a globalized world (CWASI)’ project, a research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC-2014-CoG, project 647473) and led by Prof. Francesco Laio @ Politecnico di Torino, Italy.

Water To Food aims at disseminating the research results obtained since 2015 from CWASI. The latter research project has relevantly contributed to the literature and quantitative results about the issue of water scarcity and food production and trade.

There are complex relationships among the factors driving water demand for food production in time and space, such as climate, agricultural practices, demographic changes, and market dynamics.
Therefore, among its many goals, CWASI primarily targeted:

  • The assessment of water footprint data of agriculture that considers technological advancements in agriculture practices.
  • The understanding of the dynamics of virtual water flows associated with the international trade of food.
  • The investigation of this trade, its drivers, and implications for food security.
  • The assessment of sustainable practices in agriculture, nutrition, and economics also in future scenarios.

The research has been conducted by merging ideas, concepts, theories and methodologies from Hydrology, Sustainable Development, Economics, Complexity Theory, Climate Change and Nutritional Sciences, Geopolitics and Agronomics, and Renewable Energy. Thus, our team is a melting pot of hydrologists, economists, engineers and physicists, all sharing one common mission:

Taking care of water resources in the global food system



Full Professor and Principal Investigator


Francesco Laio is a Full Professor in Hydrology at Politecnico di Torino. He holds a degree in Environmental Engineering (from Politecnico di Torino) and a Ph.D. in Water Engineering (from Politecnico di Milano). He was recently appointed as Director of the Department of Environmental, Land, and Infrastructure Engineering at Politecnico di Torino. His scholarly activities are documented by more than 150 publications, including 95 papers in ISI peer-reviewed international journals, and a book published by Cambridge University Press. In the past few years, he has served as the coordinator of 11 national and international research projects (including a FIRB project and an ERC Consolidator Grant) for a total budget of 2.2 M€.



Associate Professor


Stefania Tamea is an Associate Professor in Hydrology at Politecnico di Torino. She holds a Ph.D. degree in Water Engineering (2007) and she has been working at the Princeton University (Princeton, USA) and at Politecnico di Torino, where she has now a position as Associate Professor. Her work focuses on the water resources used for agriculture and food production, on virtual water and international food trade, on sustainability, and the nexus between water and food security. Her scientific activity is documented by 25 papers in international ISI journals, 3 book chapters, and several invited speeches in national and international symposiums. In 2015, she has been appointed “Junior Marchi Lecturer” by the Gruppo Italiano Idraulica.



Full Professor

Hydraulics & Mechanics

Luca Ridolfi is a Full Professor in Hydraulics and Fluid Mechanics at Politecnico di Torino. In this same university, he chaired the Department of Hydraulics, Transports, and Civil Infrastructures coordinated the Ph.D. School in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He has been responsible for several scientific projects, funded by national and international agencies. He led the publishing of more than 200 papers published in international refereed journals and he co-authored two scientific published by Cambridge University Press and Birkhauser.



Assistant Professor

Water-Food-Energy Nexus

Marta Tuninetti is an Assistant Professor at Politecnico di Torino, where she obtained her Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering (2018). As a Research Scholar, she visited the University of Virginia (2013) and the University College London (2017). Her current research focuses on the Water-Food-Energy nexus through global and high-resolution modeling approaches. She convenes scientific panels at international conferences (EGU in Wien and AGU in the US), and she was guest editor for Environmental Research Letters in 2021. She is also a Science Communicator, being one of the creators of WaterToFood and one of the co-founders of WeSTEAM.



Research Fellow

Economics and Policy

Elena Vallino holds a degree in Political Sciences at the University of Torino and a Master in International and Development Economics at the University of Applied Study in Berlin, Germany. She completed a Ph.D. in Economics of Complex Systems at the University of Torino, spending periods as Visiting Scholar at the Centre of Research in the Economics of Development (CRED), University of Namur, Belgium, and at the Arizona State University, USA. She worked for Italian NGOs and for the German Technical Cooperation Agency in Indonesia. She has published scientific articles in the fields of development and environmental studies. She currently works on economic water scarcity in food production and trade and on the socio-economic dimensions of the drivers of virtual water trade.





Guido Chiarotti is a scientist, a publisher, and a management consultant. He is currently the executive managing director at MAX, a recently established European Centre of Excellence (ECoE) on High-Performance Computing (HPC) aimed to foster the EU leadership in materials modeling, simulations, discovery, and design. He is also a research associate at the Institute of Complex Systems (ISC-CNR) in Rome, where he is involved in research activity on Economic Complexity. He is also a publisher of Scienza Express, an Italian scientific dissemination publishing house. He was the CEO of Spin s.r.l. for over 20 years, one of the first companies to introduce the internet in the Italian market. Previously he was a researcher for over 15 years at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, working in condensed matter computational physics with a focus on high-pressure phenomena, semiconductors, super-ionic materials, and surface physics.



Research Associate

Complexity and Development

Carla Sciarra is a Research Associate. She recently obtained a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Politecnico di Torino. Her research focuses on using statistical methods and complex systems’ theories to unfold the dynamics of competition, innovation, and sustainability, which define water use at the local and world level. During her career, she has worked in the international research environment at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in 2016 and the University of California in Berkeley in 2019, gaining expertise in water – food – epidemiology nexus.



Ph.D. Candidate

Environmental Economics

Benedetta Falsetti is a PhD student at the Politecnico di Torino. She holds a master’s degree in Environmental Economics from the Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Turin. As a Visiting Research Scholar, she was at the Department of Development and Environmental Studies in Olomouc. She is now working with the Wageningen Economic Research Den Haag within the Division of International Policy. Her research focuses on virtual water trade and studies its economic value from a global perspective. In addition, she works on the physical and economic topological determinants of the food trade network, focusing on the role of trade agreements.
Finally, she is a co-creator of WaterToFood, where she coordinated the work between the research and the communication and creative teams.


De Petrillo

Ph.D. Student

Water Footprint Assessment

Elena De Petrillo is a Ph.D. Student at Politecnico di Torino. With her B.Sc’s thesis “Spatial Analysis of the Agricultural Water Footprint with free data visualization software” in 2018 she started to investigate the spatial variability of the water footprint and the facets of the virtual water trade network. Since then, she continued working on the Water To Food project with three scholarships. She completed her Master of Science in Environmental Engineering in the spring 2021 with a thesis on the spatial resolution of virtual water trade at the company’s scale. Currently, her Ph.D. research program in Hydraulic Engineering focuses on the water-food nexus, enanching the spatial resolution of the virtual water trade assessment.

Former members
Tiziano Distefano

Research Fellow in Water and Economics

Irene Soligno

Research Fellow in Environmental Sustainability

Susanna Grita

Research Fellow in History and Geography of Water Use

Ignazio Giuntoli

Research Fellow in Agriculture and Climate Extremes

DIATI Politecnico di Torino
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