Unlikely alliances in rural-urban water conflicts

Authors: Sophia Layser Borgias*, University of Nevada, Reno
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Environmental Justice, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: water, political ecology, unlikely alliances, rural livelihoods, California
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 49
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation examines the formation of what have been called “unlikely alliances” among ranchers, environmentalists, Indigenous activists, and others in response to the shifting politics of rural-urban water conflicts in the Owens and Mono basins in eastern California. This region’s infamous water wars with Los Angeles have increasingly become science wars in the wake of protracted environmental legal battles. As the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has rebranded itself as an ‘environmental corporate citizen,’ it has reconfigured relations with and among local actors. In-depth ethnographic research traced how these actors have navigated historical tensions and found common ground among concerns about ecosystem health, rural livelihoods, and Indigenous rights. The findings highlight the dynamic and at times tenuous nature of these alliances, but also the transformative potential of growing movements for water justice in response to large rural-to-urban water transfers.

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