Sophia Borgias

Ph.D. Candidate

I study water issues from a social science perspective, drawing on political ecology and legal geography and using archival, ethnographic, and participatory research methods. My current research focuses on the ongoing struggle over water and land management in Owens Valley, California. The City of Los Angeles owns more than 95% of the private land and water rights in this rural region of the Eastern Sierra, transferring water to the city by way of the Los Angeles Aqueduct since 1913. The project examines how conflicting interests within and outside the watershed are negotiated and reconciled, tracing the respective roles and relationships among the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, government agencies, and local stakeholder groups. The project aims to inform local efforts to improve stakeholder relations as well as to provide information relevant to debates about proposed water transfers in other watersheds. 

My master's thesis research (2014-2016) examined water governance in the Maipo River basin in central Chile, with an emphasis on legal and institutional frameworks, climate change and water scarcity, and social mobilization. In particular, the thesis examined 1) the legal policy of "river sectioning" and its impacts on water governance, 2) the role of social movement actors in an entrenched hydropower conflict, and 3) the implications of drought and climate change discourses for communities struggling with long-standing issues of water scarcity. I collaborated on a photo story about the Maipo River basin that can be found here. My previous research in Chile (2011-2012) examined the development of the Patagonia Sin Represas anti-dam social movement in southern Chile. 

From 2017-2018, I served as field coordinator for the Community and School Garden Program. From 2014-2016, I worked as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, collaborating with project partners from six countries across the arid Amerias on a water security project funded by the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research.