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August, 2006

'Water Warriors': A Film About the Fight for Water

By Sandy Reid

Editor's note: Elizabeth Miller is director and producer of "Water Warriors," an upcoming film about one community's determination to fight the seemingly inevitable path of water privatization. (See a short version at http://www.mediathatmattersfest.org/6/water_warriors/)

Fighting for water in the Detroit area.
Fighting for water in the Detroit area.

PT: Why did you become a filmmaker?

Liz Miller: I think of myself as an educator who makes films. In all of my films, I represent strong women facing challenges and making a difference. In "Water Warriors" there are many strong women represented: Marian Kramer and Maureen Taylor of Welfare Rights, who have been defending the rights of poor women for years. Gloria Pogue, an employee of the water plant who has been working under adverse conditions to deliver clean water to residents every day of the year. Vallory Johnson, facing difficulties paying her bills, turns her personal pain and loss into a powerful grassroots campaign. Each of these women are tirelessly working to make sure everyone in Highland Park (Mich.) has access to water.

PT: Why did you go to Highland Park, Michigan?

LM: I wanted to tell a story that would wake Americans up to the fact that the way we use and pay for water is changing and will continue to change. People say that water is becoming the liquid gold of the 21st century but what does this mean and who will this impact the most? I heard of Highland Park because of the extraordinary bills some residents were receiving -- some as high as $10,000. It didn't make sense to me, how a city situated next to the largest body of fresh water in the world, the Great Lakes, would have residents going without water. I wanted to learn more and find out what was going on. What also drew me to Highland Park was the challenge the community faces as a post-industrial city. Highland Park is not alone in this sense -- many cities in Michigan and throughout the country are in dire financial straights. So, I have been trying to connect the struggle of water to post-industrial economics, race and poverty.

PT: Who is in the film?

LM: The film collects the voices of many people in the community -- the financial managers, city council members, citizens, and community organizers. It also features workers in the water plant -- their perspective and very real challenges. By looking at one community facing serious financial constraints and the prospect of water privatization, I hope that viewers will connect this situation to their own community and begin to think about who does and should manage the water in their own communities.

PT: What solutions are offered?

LM: Water Warriors presents a community in crisis, but it also presents the powerful enactment of local participation in finding solutions to the problems of our times.To ensure that all residents in Highland Park can access water, the residents design and propose a water affordability plan that they draft with the support of a water utilities expert based in Boston. Individuals will figure out what is best for their own community but what is essential is that they express their voice and take part in finding solutions.

Michigan Welfare Rights members are available to speak about lessons of the global struggle for water. Also, donations are needed to complete the 60-minute film. Contact Speakers for a New America for speaking availability or donations at 800-691-6888.


Water has been cut off to about 422 homes per week in the City of Detroit, and 45,000 were cut off last year. The community just won a Water Affordability Plan, but they will have to monitor it to insure the victory is not stolen from the people.

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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