Ekta Patel is a 4th year PhD candidate in Environmental Policy with a concentration in Political Science at Duke. Her research interests include water supply governance, the politics of public service provision, and wildlife conservation. She is writing her dissertation on global water norms, desalination, and the role of public and private stakeholders in its adoption decisions. Prior to Duke, she worked at an education technology start-up and received her BA in Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard University. She was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya and resides in Durham where she enjoys cooking, nature photography, and reading long-form culture essays.    

 This summer, Ekta will continue her dissertation project on desalination governance. Ensuring access to adequate quantities of water for basic needs remains a fundamental challenge for cities where surface- and groundwater resources run low. In the face of this scarcity and increasing variability wrought by climate change, many places are turning to new sources of water like seawater desalination to ensure future water supply. This trend is taking off simultaneously across many locations globally, but the questions of how, by whom, and why this technology is moving forward remain understudied. Ekta will examine the case of a proposed desalination facility in southern California through three central questions: 1) Who participates in the decision-making process?, 2) What information do the stakeholders rally around and advance to show support or opposition?, and 3) In what ways does their participation and issue framing affect regulatory decisions in turn? By identifying the extent of support/opposition by stakeholder type and reasons for stakeholder positions, Ekta aims to map who owns what issue and when — e.g. pattern detection when it comes to the specific case — and identify how vested interests of stakeholders are included (or not) in the decision-making process by the permitting agencies. She will gather data through interviews and document analysis.  


Studying the role of desalination in water scarcity and management