WRRC Brown Bag - Public Interest, Indigenous Rights, and the Los Angeles Aqueduct






Sophia Borgias
Assistant Professor, School of Public Service, Boise State University

This presentation offers a critical reassessment of the emblematic water conflict over the Los Angeles Aqueduct, one of the first large inter-basin water transfers in the American West. Based on three years of in-depth archival, ethnographic, and collaborative research, it examines how public, private, and tribal interests have been weighed in decision-making about this water transfer over the course of more than a century of social, regulatory, and environmental change. In particular, it addresses gaps in previous histories of the Los Angeles Aqueduct by detailing the consequences it had for Indigenous land and water rights and demonstrating how that history continues to shape water conflicts in the region to this day. 

Dr. Sophia Borgias is a human-environment geographer whose work focuses on water and environmental governance in the arid Americas. Her most recent research has focused on conflicts over rural-urban water transfers in the Great Basin region, as well as the “unlikely alliances” of environmentalists, ranchers, and native nations that have formed to protect rural landscapes and livelihoods from their impacts. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Geography from the University of Arizona and is now an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Service at Boise State University. 

Photo: Unlined section of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, just south of Manzanar, near US Highway 395, Wikimedia Commons