Williams County residents build on Ohios growing Rights of Nature and Community Rights movement.




Tish ODell, Ohio Community Organizer

WILLIAMS COUNTY, OH: Today, members of Williams County Alliance turned in over 2,500 signatures at the Williams County Board of Elections to place a county charter on the November ballot. The initiative would establish a charter for Williams County that recognizes the right to local self-government and strengthens state protections for human and civil rights. The proposed charter also recognizes the rights of ecosystems, including legally enforceable rights for the Michindoh Aquifer. It would ban corporate activities that violate those rights.

Williams County community members’ organizing efforts represent the most recent expansion of a rights-based movement growing around the state, which includes Toledo’s adoption of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights in February.


Williams County residents face a threat to the Michindoh Aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for the county. A private corporation, Artesian of Pioneer (AOP), is proposing to pump and sell water from the Michindoh Aquifer to communities located outside the aquifer boundaries. These communities already have multiple sources of water, including from Lake Erie.


“As soon as AOP’s plan to privatize and profit off the water became public, local residents were immediately opposed,” said Sherry Fleming, Organizer with Williams County Alliance. “We are facing a water crisis, but we must respond by uplifting democratic, human and ecosystem rights above the profit motif. We see water as a human right and part of an ecosystem—not a commodity to be sold for profit. In Williams County, we have no other economically feasible source of water, there is no recognition of our right of local control, and the state has failed to act.”

“Once a pipeline to extract and sell the water to entities outside the aquifer is built, there will be no turning back,” said community activist Lou Pendleton. “Rather than a business selling our drinking water for profit, we should conserve the aquifer for future generations.”

Of the 2,500+ signatures residents turned in, 1,363 must be valid in order to qualify for the November ballot.


The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund assisted in drafting the Williams County Charter. 

About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is building a movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature to advance democratic, economic, social, and environmental rights – building upward from the grassroots to the state, federal, and international level.

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