The victory follows years of collaboration between Toledoans for Safe Water and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, as well as decades of regulatory failure and recent severe algal blooms. Opponents included big agricultural interests represented by the Chamber of Commerce and the Farm Bureau. The lake is the primary source of drinking water for Toledo, so its health impacts the health of some 300,000 people on its shores. In 2014, more than 100 people were sickened by algae which had proliferated thanks to agricultural run-off.
The Alliance has also played a role in the movement to gain legal standing for nature. Back in 2005, the Alliance for Democracy's Defending Water for Life campaign brought the CELDF strategy of rights-based ordinances to Barnstead NH where citizens were organizing to prevent bottled water companies from privatizing their water. By the following spring, the citizens passed the first ordinance in the country to declare...
“...We the People of the Town of Barnstead declare that we have the duty to safeguard the water both on and beneath the Earth’s surface, and in the process, safeguard the rights of people within the community of Barnstead, and the rights of the ecosystems of which Barnstead is a part...”
In quick succession three more towns in NH passed similar ordinances and the following year two towns in Maine did so as well. You can read the full Barnstead ordinance here.
"We praise the residents of Toledo Ohio for expanding this rights-based strategy to apply to the whole Lake Erie ecosystem," said AfD's Ruth Caplan, who brought the rights-based approach to Barnstead.