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The Lady K tow boat kicks up a wake full of green algae a few hundred feet from the city of Toledo's Water Intake on Lake Erie, for testing on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. Ty Wright / The Washington Post / Getty Images

By Valerie Vande Panne

In February, the voters of Toledo, Ohio, passed a ballot initiative that gives Lake Erie and those who rely on the lake's ecosystem a bill of rights. The idea is to protect and preserve the ecosystem so that the life that depends on it — humans included — can have access to safe, fresh drinking water.

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Small ephemeral waterfall flows into Lake Erie on Kelley's Island. Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial on Ohio's South Bass Island is on the background. Posnov / Moment / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Tired of receiving notices warning that their drinking water may have been compromised and having little recourse to fight corporate polluters, voters in Toledo, Ohio on Tuesday approved a measure granting Lake Erie some of the same legal rights as a human being.

Sixty-one percent of voters in Tuesday's special election voted in favor of Lake Erie's Bill of Rights, which allows residents to take legal action against entities that violate the lake's rights to "flourish and naturally evolve" without interference.

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The Ganges River. Photo credit: Flickr

While the U.S. makes it easier for coal companies to dump mining waste into streams and waterways, other countries are acknowledging the importance of water and granting personhood to these precious resources.

The High Court of the Indian state of Uttarakhand ruled that the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries have "legal and living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities."

The decision marks the first time a court has recognized a non-human as a living entity in India.

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