Seeing under the surface: My ATREE experience

Written by Danielle Lindamood

I am, by definition, a wanderer – both physically and mentally. I have had 15 jobs in my short 24 years. I have traveled in 22 different countries. I have dabbled in philosophy and marine biology and medicine and technology. I have called 10 different places home. Yet something has always remained central in my life: Water.

It pervaded my childhood, growing up in California playing in the ocean. It’s what gives me new life and vigor as I trek through mountains and deserts and forests. It’s been a source of calm and peace at the centers of my meditative practices. And now, it has also been at the very heart of my research. Water is an unequivocally important resource on our planet because it is an undeniable necessity of life as we know it for people and ecosystems alike. As the world has transformed into its modern state in the Anthropocene, an age in which humans are the biggest force shaping the planet’s future, the governance and management of water has become increasingly important and needed. This need has been recognized by the UN in its Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) – universal access to clean water and sanitation – which explores the need for good management for social and ecological systems on the basis of human rights, as well as the deep connections between humans and the environment upon which we depend.

While my wanderings have by and large been for pleasure and self-discovery, my research on water governance for SDG 6 achievement took me to India for my fieldwork, which brought me into contact with ATREE. My research focused on capturing experiences around success and failure in water projects, especially those aligning with SDG 6 targets across India. I conducted semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with everyone from government officials to NGOs to understand these successes and failures.I additionally used two micro-case study sites – one in Thirumagondanahalli village in Bangalore Rural District and the other in various locations across the Mulbagal block in the Kolar District of Karnataka– to capture community experiences with water projects. Back at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, now my current undertaking is to analyze the data and prepare it into my Master’s thesis.

Some themes have been obvious, like the need for transparency or finding ways to enhance the enforceability of water laws, but other results will be more nuanced and harder to tease out from the system complexity of water governance in India. While the verdict is still not out onthe story the data will tell for my results, my experience working with ATREE is one of my own stories and therefore, one I can craft for you now.

From the guidance of my host advisor Dr.Sharad Lélé to the working relationships I developed to the life-long friendships I now carry with me, ATREE’s support improved my research project and my time in India significantly and taught me some life lessons along the way. Concerning my research, ATREE colleagues were instrumental in helping me establish connections with local organizations and important people in the water sector. Enhancing my professional network was so important to the quality of my work; it allowed me to interview many people with important perspectives surrounding water governance in policy and practice. ATREE additionally enabled me to have confidence in choosing my field sites, as well as a field assistant who helped me capture community member’s stories and experiences with water.

My ATREE colleagues also helped me through sharing their research topics and experiences,making the intriguingly complex world of water in India come alive for me. This certainly made my research richer and on an academic level, I know my research will have meaningful implications for the future of water governance and management in India, especially for SDG 6 targets, in part because of my time at ATREE.

On a personal level, my network at ATREE meant I could delve into building relationships while I did my research. I lived with students doing their PhDs at ATREE as well as research project team members. I talked over lunch with colleagues every day about current events and meaningful research and our worldviews. I learned some Kannada and used it whenever I could to the amusement of taxi drivers, shop keepers, and ATREE fellows alike. I spent time in local communities having chai and visiting farms and just talking and listening and absorbing everything I could. My time in India will stay with me in the things I learned, places I saw, and people I met. I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness for what my fieldwork experience has given me already, but it will undoubtedly shape my future as well. It has taught me to embrace the complexities I encounter and to cherish people and knowledge as they come into my life. It has also reinforced the value of time spent in new cultures, learning about new contexts, and expandingmy worldview.

I am and will probably always be a wanderer, but the beautiful thing about wandering throughour incredible planet is that you carry all your experiences with you. Whether it is water governance or another immensely complex topic that intrigues and excites me, the role of partnerships and relationships has been an undeniable benefit to my life, academically and personally. My research has benefitted immensely from these forces during my fieldwork and I cannot wait to see the ways in which my ATREE relationships will blossom further in the future.

About the Author:

Danielle Lindamood is a California-native studying at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. She is pursuing a Masters in Sustainability Management. She works in the areas of governance, policy, social-ecological systems, sustainable development, and water. Her thesis engages with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 – universal access to clean water and sanitation – exploring governance structures and mechanisms for enhancing the achievability of this goal. When she’s not working on her research, Danielle enjoys playing music, rock climbing, backpacking, a good cup of coffee, and deep conversations with friends and colleagues.

If you’re interested in learning more about Danielle’s work with the University of Waterloo, do not hesitate to contact her at

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