Saperstein, Robert J.

Rob Saperstein's practice focuses on water law and related environmental issues, primarily representing public entities potable water and recycled water suppliers. He counsels and advocates in both transactional and litigation settings, and appears before local agencies, the California State Water Resources Control Board, various regional water quality control boards, the California Public Utilities Commission and state and federal courts. 

Rob's experience includes sales agreements for the multi-million-dollar acquisition of a public water system by the local municipality. He has negotiated and drafted potable water and recycled water supply agreements between municipalities and special customers. He has also negotiated and drafted water facilities lease agreements providing for the lease of certain water diversion structures from a municipality to a private mutual water company. Rob has drafted and prosecuted water rights applications before the State Water Resources Control Board. He has drafted several ordinances for municipal entities. He has also successfully argued for ordinance changes ultimately adopted by local groundwater management agencies and municipalities. In addition, Rob has prepared articles of incorporation, bylaws, shareholder agreements and nonprofit exemption applications for mutual water companies.

In the litigation realm, Rob currently represents municipal water purveyors in the Santa Maria Groundwater Litigation, a complex adjudication involving more than 1,000 parties. He has successfully negotiated multi-million-dollar settlements from several large oil companies as compensation for MTBE contamination of public water purveyors' groundwater supply in two different groundwater basins. Rob has argued before the California Court of Appeals in both water-related and general business litigation matters. He has also successfully defended and settled a shareholder derivative suit on behalf of a large mutual water company.

Representative Matters
  • Protected Bottling Plant from interference by City Council resulting from pressure by non-profit groups adverse to bottled water industry.

  • Co-trial counsel for one of California’s largest shareholder-owned public water suppliers in complex litigation to adjudicate and control the water resources in the Santa Maria groundwater basin. The case involved more than 1,000 parties who rely on local water resources and two federally-owned reservoirs. After eight years of litigation, the case was resolved through a settlement stipulation among the vast majority of the parties, thereby providing legal certainty with respect to the use and management of the resource. Litigation continues among a small minority of the remaining parties.

  • Defended CEQA challenge to Spring Water agreement in trial and appellate courts. Provided NEPA, CEQA and land use compliance advice for project development including construction of bottling facility and construction of pipelines in federal forest land.

  • Defended CEQA challenge to the City’s renewal of its long-term Central Valley Project water supply contract in trial and appellate courts.

  • Successfully settled reimbursement claim by water company against four major oil companies with no direct evidence of whose MTBE impacted the well.

News & Events

Nature Conservancy, pro bono legal work

Chair, Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District Hearing Board

Board of directors, Channel Islands YMCA

Publications & Presentations
  • J.D., 1993, with highest honors, University of Washington School of Law, Order of the Coif
  • B.A., 1980, University of California at San Diego
  • California, 1993
  • Arizona, 2005
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of California

Best Lawyers in America, 2010-2017

Member of the Year, Association of Water Agencies of Ventura County, 2003

Who's Who in Professional Services

US Navy, Commissioned Officer, Naval Nuclear Submarine Force, 1982-1987


Association of California Water Agencies, Program Committee

Association of Water Agencies, Ventura County, Water Issues Committee

Santa Barbara County Bar Association

Water Reuse Association