Get the best of Commons Magazine — FREE!


January 1, 2012

The History of Our Water Commons

And how the Great Lakes Commons Initiative came to be

In May 2008, On the Commons launched Our Water Commons, a collaborative program seeking to make the governance process involved in water stewardship more participatory, democratic, and community-centered. For two years, Our Water Commons developed and implemented commons-based water management solutions through local and international projects.

Over time, this work inspired Our Water Commons’ collaborators to design a revolutionary initiative during a landmark meeting organized by On the Commons and the Council of Canadians at the Blue Mountain Center in Upstate New York. Participants included representatives from the Haudenosaunee Nation, the Detroit People’s Water Board, Food and Water Watch, the Chiefs of Ontario, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, FLOW for Water, and more. Collectively, these leaders had an intimate knowledge of an array of issues facing the Great Lakes, and, after three days of dialog, they articulated a powerful and unifying purpose: to declare the Great Lakes watershed as a commons, a public trust, and protected bioregion.

To achieve this goal, each participant and organization agreed to work together to build a multi-cultural, cross-border commons movement to recognize and declare the Great Lakes a commons and public trust with protected bioregion status. Our Great Lakes Commons Initiative builds on the work of countless groups who have toiled for decades to protect the lakes, and takes these efforts to the next level with a game-changing plan. For the first time, established environmental organizations, inner city social justice groups, and Indigenous Nations forged an alliance to ignite a fledgling movement under a commons banner.

You can learn more about the Great Lakes Commons Initiative, by reading our “Great Lakes Commons Charter”:http://www.onthecommons.org/work/our-great-lakes-commons-charter.