Sophia Borgias

About Sophia Borgias

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. 

I currently work as the field coordinator for the Community and School Garden Program. During Summer 2017 Session II, I taught Environment and Society (GEOG 150c1) online. 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.

Research Interests

  • Water conflicts
  • Law
  • Indigenous rights
  • Environmental governance
  • Social movements
  • Political ecology
  • Legal geography
  • Western U.S. - California
  • Latin America - Chile 



Selected Publications

Borgias, Sophia and Carl J. Bauer. 2018. Trajectory of a divided river basin: law, conflict, and cooperation along Chile’s Maipo River. Water Policy 20(1): 127-145. DOI: 10.2166/wp.2017.250

Borgias, Sophia L. and Yvonne A. Braun. 2017. “From dams to democracy: Framing processes and political opportunities in Chile’s Patagonia Without Dams movement.” Interface: A journal for and about social movements. 9(2): 300-328.

Austin, Diane, Sophia Borgias, and Kevin Bulletts. 2017. Report on the Ethnographic Research by the Southern Paiute Consortium to Inform Management of the Traditional Cultural Property and Other Tribal Historic Properties in the Colorado River Corridor Below Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry, Arizona. Prepared for the National Park Service by the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, U. of Arizona, and Anthropological Research LLC on behalf of the Southern Paiute Consortium.

Borgias, Sophia L. 2017. La gobernanza del agua en la cuenca del Río Maipo (policy brief). Disseminated to stakeholders and officials in Santiago, Chile in February of 2017.

Mills-Novoa, Megan, Sophia L. Borgias, Arica Crootof, Bhuwan Thapa, Christopher Scott, Rafael DeGranade. 2016. “Bringing the Hydro-social Cycle into Climate Change Adaptation Planning: Lessons From Two Andean Mountain Water Towers.” The Annals of the American Association of Geographers.

Borgias, Sophia L. 2016. “Law, Scarcity, and Social Movements: Water governance in Chile’s Maipo River basin.” University of Arizona.

Borgias, Sophia L. 2013. “Patagonia Without Dams: Framing, Democracy and Social Transformation in Chile.” University of Oregon Robert D. Clark Honors College. 


Sophia Borgias's picture

Contact Information

Sophia Borgias
PhD Candidate
Office: ENR2 S570-DD
Office Hours: By appointment


M.A. Geography, University of Arizona, May 2016

B.A. International Studies, University of Oregon, June 2013

B.A. Spanish, University of Oregon, June 2013    (Minor: Latin American Studies)

Robert D. Clark Honors College, Summa Cum Laude



Courses Taught

Environment and Society (GEOG 150c1) - Summer 2017 Session II - online 

Environment and Society (GEOG 150c1) - Winter 2017 - online