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Water Law

Securing an adequate supply of water is a critical component of every land development project, and every type of productive resource property use, from manufacturing to farming, to viniculture. Whether the water supply is sourced from a municipal or private water purveyor, or obtained privately from a surface water body, well, or spring, the water must be obtained and managed through the complex web of statutes, regulations, and court cases known as water law.

When your project or enterprise encounters water law issues, our attorneys can help. Our team of water lawyers has a deep knowledge of water law, and broad experience applying this knowledge to a wide range of water problems. We counsel clients toward cooperative and market-based solutions to water problems, such as water quality trading and water marketing. When that’s not possible, we have the experience and depth to see matters through litigation.

We assist municipal water providers, irrigation districts, private water companies, developers of mixed use and resort property projects, high tech companies, food processors, farmers, wine growers, fish propagators, and homeowners, among others, in the acquisition, defense, transfer, change, management, and marketing of water rights. We advise lenders and borrowers on securitization of water rights, and assist businesses and individuals with water rights inventories and water rights management planning.

Water Rights Auditing
When water rights drive value, such as transactions involving agriculture or viticultural lands, we perform water rights audits as an essential element of due diligence. The purpose of the audit is to verify that the water rights are valid and in good standing. Everywhere in the West, water rights are subject to loss for non-use, or to curtailment if the water use is not in conformance with the documents. We examine the paper water rights, compare them against state records, and as appropriate, ground truth the rights in the field using a water rights examiner.

Water Law Regulatory and Litigation Matters
We also represent clients in regulatory, enforcement, and litigation matters, administrative rulemakings, water rights adjudications, and before the legislature. As new water rights are difficult to obtain in most western states—due to drought or over-appropriation of surface and groundwater sources—we assist clients in finding, evaluating, documenting, and negotiating the purchase and sale of water rights.

We regularly counsel clients on waste water discharge permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act and state laws. We also assist in market-based approaches to water quality regulatory matters, like water quality trading to obtain better environmental outcomes at lower cost.

Water law is closely tied to both real property law and environmental and natural resource law. Securing state water rights often involves related federal requirements stemming from the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and federal land management statutes. Our attorneys work in teams to help clients across the boundaries among these practice areas, and can provide counseling and representation on land use permitting, water quality, storm water, and waste water management issues. We know that climate change is deeply affecting water supply and water policy, and our attorneys keep a close eye on the evolving regulatory and legislative initiatives emerging from local, state, and federal efforts to address 21st century water supply challenges. Our water law team also includes attorneys with expertise in hydroelectric licensing and compliance.