Linda Estelí Méndez Barrientos

foto de Linda

2125 Wickson Hall

Hi! I am a fourth year PhD candidate in environmental governance at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Over the last 10 years, I've been specializing on water governance, studying the design and implementation of progressive water reforms. This work has taken me to many places around the world including Nicaragua, Senegal, South Africa and Spain where I've experienced and analyzed the challenges of policy implementation and institutional change. For my dissertation, I am studying how inequality and power asymmetries among institutions and people shape the implementation of groundwater management reform in California. I am using a mix-methods approach combining participant observation, in-depth interviews, surveys and the review and collection of archival information to build state-wide databases that look both at the water resource, the groundwater basins, and at the institutions statewide. This work has been supported by the National Science Foundation IGERT on Climate Change, Water and Society (CCWAS) and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowhip Program (GRFP).

Previously, I worked with UNESCO-IHE and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where I developed an ethnographic research project to understand processes of implementation of South Africa's monumental land and water reform in its effort to address apartheid's heritage of inequality. I also hold two masters degree, one on International Land and Water Management from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the other on Agricultural Policy from Montpellier SupAgro in France, and I also have advocacy experience in California working with the Environmental Defense Fund.


  • Méndez-Barrientos, L. E., Kemerink, J. S., Wester, P., & Molle, F. (2018). Commercial farmers’ strategies to control water resources in South Africa: An empirical view of reform. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 34(2), 245-258.
  • Langridge, Ruth, Stephen Sepaniak, Amanda Fencl, Linda Estelí Méndez Barrientos. (2018). Management of Groundwater and Drought Under Climate Change. A Report for California’s Fourth Climate Assessment.
  • Rudnick, J., DeVincentis, A., & Méndez-Barrientos, L. (2016). The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act challenges the diversity of California farms. California Agriculture, 70(4), 169-173.
  • Kemerink, J. S., Méndez, L. E., Ahlers, R., Wester, P., & van der Zaag, P. (2013). The question of inclusion and representation in rural South Africa: challenging the concept of water user associations as a vehicle for transformation. Water Policy, 15(2), 243-257.