Fighting to protect Maine’s essential resource

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Nickie Sekera, Water Warrior

Nickie Sekera is not afraid to take on tough causes or corporate giants. A crusader for Maine’s water resources, Sekera believes in harnessing the power of local grassroots movements.

“When you look at water issues in Maine, you find that corporate interests supersede local interests,” she says. “Maine lacks adequate groundwater protection laws, meaning sustainability for future generations has been put in the hands of business interests rather than our citizens.”

For Sekera, the connection between water and social justice hit home in a visceral way 20 years ago when hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. “I was hiking in the desert with many miles between water sources and saw this gigantic pipeline carrying water from deep in the Owens Valley to Los Angeles,” she says. “It shaped my thinking about the problems of access to water.”

One of nine children raised in the Bangor area, Sekera, 46, was always a restless spirit who questioned the status quo. “I didn’t want to follow the traditional expectations,” she says. “Even when I was a kid, I questioned things when they felt unjust. I guess I’ve always stood with the underdog.”

Her fierce drive for social justice led first to international human rights work, from medical clinics in conflict zones in eastern Burma to eight years as a board member of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, shaping foreign policy through grassroots efforts. When she became a mother to Luke, now 13, the global became local.

“I looked around my own community of Fryeburg and saw what multinational company Nestle [owner of Poland Spring] was doing,” Sekera says. “Their contract grants them unfettered access to our community’s groundwater for decades to come. “

The protracted legal battle led Sekera to cofound Community Water Justice, a resource network for water activists, and in 2014 she was elected a trustee for the Fryeburg Water District. Mentoring young people is another passion that she deftly juggles along with a full-time job, single parenthood and the social activism that’s become her life purpose.

When the going gets tough, Sekera knows where to look for inspiration. “I’m proud to join the front-line protectors of our most precious resource,” she says. “And because of the energy and commitment of so many—especially our young people—I do have hope for the future.”

Lori Douglas Clark is a journalist, poet and community volunteer who lives with her family in Readfield.

Find out more about Community Water Justice and the group’s work to broaden community involvement in what’s happening with the municipal supply of water in the town of Fryeburg: www.facebook.com/communitywaterjustice.