Slater, Scott S.

Scott Slater serves on the firm’s Executive Committee. An experienced litigator, Scott's legal practice now emphasizes negotiation and strategic planning for clients seeking to secure new water supplies and assisting them in meeting their objectives for reliability and sustainability. Scott serves as special water counsel to investor-owned utilities, private equity groups, private corporations, special districts, cities and large landowners.

Scott has more than 32 years' experience representing clients in complex water matters, predominantly in the Western United States  He was named as one of the top 100 lawyers in California by the Daily Journal and Water Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers in 2014.

He has conducted transactional counseling, negotiated and drafted proposed legislation, and represented clients in groundwater litigation and stream adjudication. He has also handled water resource and water quality cases before the California State Water Resources Control Board, the Public Utilities Commission and state and federal courts.

Among his more significant recent water transactions, in 2007 Scott acted as facilitator, negotiator and draftsman of a complex set of court approved agreements that will effectuate a novel groundwater management strategy in the Southern California Inland Empire. The agreements will allow for the harvesting of 400,000 acre-feet of groundwater and 10 mgd of expanded desalting capacity to dramatically curtail outflow to the Santa Ana River. In 2005 Scott completed negotiations for an agreement for the joint use of the Upper American River Project (UARP) for the benefit of El Dorado County, an area of origin community at the headwaters of the American River. Through the Quantification Settlement Agreement, in 2003 he capped nearly a decade of effort by negotiating agreements for transfer of 277,000 acre-feet per year for the San Diego County Water Authority, the largest water transfer in United States history.

Scott has been active in numerous water adjudication and litigation matters and he has a working knowledge of every adjudicated groundwater basin in California, including the Chino Basin, the San Fernando Basin, the Six Basins, the Seaside Basin, the Santa Paula Basin, the Central and West Coast Basins, the Mojave Basin, the Goleta Basin, and the Sacramento Basin.

An accomplished author and public speaker, Scott is frequently called upon to present at national water and environmental conferences. He is the author of a two-volume treatise titled California Water Law and Policy. He has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Pepperdine School of Law (1996-2002), a visiting lecturer at the University of Western Australia and at various universities in the People's Republic of China. In addition, Scott has been appointed to water management boards and called upon repeatedly to serve as an expert witness in water law and the professional standard of care for water lawyers.

Scott is CEO and General Counsel for Cadiz Inc., a publicly traded company. While maintaining his shareholder position at Brownstein, Scott serves as Cadiz's lead liaison with customer agencies and oversees the company's environmental and resource management efforts.

Selected Transactions

Peace II Agreements (2007). As general counsel to the Chino Basin Watermaster, facilitated, negotiated and drafted agreements among parties to the Judgment to implement the Optimum Basin Management Program. Represented the parties and Watermaster before the Court in securing approval of basin management strategy to secure hydraulic control through a coordinated groundwater extraction plan and desalting.

Cooperation Agreement (2005). Negotiated an agreement for the joint use of the Upper American River Project (“UARP”) for the benefit of El Dorado County, an area of origin community at the headwaters of the American River. The agreement provided access to the UARP and the right to divert and store up to 40,000 acre feet of water annually.

Quantification Settlement Agreement (2003). Negotiated a series of complex agreements between State and Federal agencies for the settlement of disputes and the lining of the All-American Canal and the transfer of 277,700 acre feet of water to San Diego County for the next 110 years.

Chino Basin Desalter Authority (2001). Facilitator and mediator in the formation of the Chino Basin Desalter Authority and $350 million water supply contracts.

Peace Agreement - Chino Basin (2000). Facilitator and mediator as general counsel for the Chino Basin Watermaster for execution of a 400 million dollar Optimum Basin Management Program and Peace Agreement for the Chino Basin.

Agreement for the Sale of Santa Clarita Water Company (1999). Lead negotiator in 63 million dollar sale of an investor-owned utility to the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

Agreement for Treatment of Wastewater at Hyperion (1999). Negotiated thirty-year wastewater agreement for the City of Beverly Hills, City of Burbank and Universal Studios with the City of Los Angeles for use of the largest wastewater facility in the Western United States.

Agreement for the Exchange of Colorado River Water (1998). Lead negotiator of a $1 billion 30-year water exchange agreement for the San Diego County Water Authority.

Agreement for the Seventy-Five Year Lease of Conserved Water by the San Diego County Water Authority From the Imperial Irrigation District (1998). Negotiated a several billion dollar, seventy-five year lease of 200,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water for the San Diego County Water Authority.

Agreement for the Purchase and Sale of the Oxnard Conduit (1996). Negotiated $8.2 million lease and sale of unused capacity in the Oxnard Conduit to the Calleguas Municipal Water District.

Acquisition of Santa Paula Water Works for the City of Santa Paula (1995). Counsel of record for the City of Santa Paula in the $18 million acquisition of Santa Paula Water Works, the utility retail water purveyor to residents within the City of Santa Paula and the surrounding unincorporated area.

Water Supply Agreement for the Delivery of Water Through the Hueneme Pipeline (1995). Lead negotiator for the City of Oxnard in acquiring a forty-year water supply from the United Water Conservation District in Ventura County.

Adjudication/Water Litigation

Cadiz Project (2012). Project Manager and negotiator for all aspects of Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project (Project). Cadiz proposes to conserve 1.6 MAF before it can evaporate from dry lakes in the Mojave Desert.

Chino Basin Municipal Water District v. City of Chino, et al. (2000-). Continuing representation of Watermaster under a 1978 Judgment adjudicating all rights to groundwater and storage for a basin of approximately 6 million acre feet of usable storage.

SDCWA/IID Petition for Transfer (2002), Order WRO 2002-0013 (October 28, 2002). Revised Pursuant to Order WRO 2002-0016. Amended Joint Petition for Approval of a Long-Term Transfer of Conserved Water from IID to SDCWA, and to Change the Point of Diversion, Place of Use, and Purpose of Use under Permit 7643 (Application 7482).

The Hartwell Corporation et al., v. Superior Court of Ventura County (2002) 27 Cal.4th 256, Representation on Respondent and Prevailing Party.

In re Petition for Extension of Time for Salinas Reservoir (2000) WR 2013. Lead counsel and successful petitioner to approve Expansion of Salinas Reservoir for City of San Luis Obispo.

City of Barstow v. Mojave Water Agency (2000) 23 Cal.4th 1224. Amicus curie on behalf of California Water Association before the California Supreme Court.

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California v. All Persons Interested in the Matter (1998) (San Francisco Superior Court) Defended against validation action brought by the Metropolitan Water District concerning its water wheeling rates. Lead counsel for the defendant and prevailing party, the San Diego County Water Authority.

Southern California Water Company v. City of La Verne (1997). Lead counsel for Southern California Water Company in the adjudication of the Six Basins Area of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. Stipulated judgment.

United Water Conservation District v. City of San Buenaventura (1996) (Ventura County Superior Court) Santa Paula Basin, Ventura County. Lead counsel for intervenors the Santa Paula Basin Pumpers Association, which was comprised of 98% of the total groundwater use within the Basin. Stipulated judgment.

Los Osos Valley Associates v. City of San Luis Obispo (1994) 30 Cal.App.4th 1670 [36 Cal.Rptr.2d 758] on appeal for the City of San Luis Obispo. Lead counsel on appeal from an adverse trial court judgment on behalf of City of San Luis Obispo.

Santa Clarita Water Company v. Castaic Lake Water Agency (1994) (Los Angeles Superior Court) Los Angeles County. Lead counsel for plaintiff Santa Clarita Water Company in action to enforce contractual rights to water. Case settled for $500,000.

Santa Clarita Water Company v. Newhall Land & Farming, et. al. (1991) (Los Angeles Superior Court) Santa Clara River Basin, Los Angeles County. Lead counsel for plaintiff and prevailing party Santa Clarita Water Company invalidating an agreement purporting to restrict the utilities right to extract groundwater.

Kern Island Association v. City of Bakersfield (1991) 40 P.U.C. 2d 65, Kern County. Lead counsel for defendant and prevailing party in action brought to restrict the distribution of water under a purchase agreement.

WR 88-14 (SWRCB) San Simeon Creek, San Luis Obispo County (1989). Lead counsel for plaintiff and prevailing party San Simeon Creek Ranch in action to enforce priority of riparian rights and enjoin well interference.

Wright v. Goleta Water District (1985) 174 Cal.App.3d 70 [219 Cal.Rptr. 743] on appeal, retrial and subsequent appeal. Counsel of record on appeal, retrial and subsequent appeal in action to assert overlying owner priority to groundwater in the North Central Sub-basin of the Goleta Groundwater Basin.

Appointment and Expert Witnesses

Board of Directors, Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency, appointed to Board of Directors for a special act agency with responsibility for managing groundwater in Ojai, California, 1994-1996.

Expert Witness on water, water rights and attorney “standard of care” in administrative and civil proceedings.

  • Mojave Water Adjudication Attorney’s Fees, 57 CPUC 2d580 (1994) 
  • 851 Approval of American States Six Basins Adjudication, CPUC, 1999 Cal.PUC Lexis 647 (1999)
  • Approval of Aerojet Settlement, 2005 WL 1798330 Cal.PUC 2nd (2005) 
  • 851 Approval of Folsom Lease, CPUC, 2004 Cal.PUC Lexis 95 (2004)
Representative Matters
  • Obtained reversal in full of two separate, but related trial court decisions denying motions to amend judgments governing the West Coast and Central groundwater basins, which provide local water supplies to the millions of people living and working in the greater Los Angeles region. The motions seek to provide for the conjunctive use and management of the basins, including procedures for use of the basins' available storage space. (Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary v. Golden State Water Co. (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 658 (review denied); Water Replenishment Dist. of Southern Cal. v. City of Cerritos (2012) 202 Cal.App.4th 1063 (review denied).)

  • Represented two private equity firms in successful bid for and acquisition of SouthWest Water Company (SWWC), a publicly-traded, investor-owned water utility with operations in several states in the western and southeastern United States. Brownstein attorneys provided strategic advice, performed due diligence, assisted with the merger and acquisition, and acquired regulatory approvals for the transaction from state public utility commissions. This is the first successful public-to-private conversion of a water company in the past decade, and SWWC was one of only 13 publicly-traded companies in the United States. The transaction matter was nominated for Water Deal of the Year at the Global Water Awards held in Berlin as part of the 2011 Global Water Summit.

  • General Counsel, Chino Basin Watermaster, under the case Chino Basin Municipal Water District v. City of Chino, San Bernardino Superior Court Case No. RCV 51010. 2000 to 2012.

  • Brownstein successfully negotiated a complex, multi-agency settlement of a water rights complaint alleging violations of the public trust and California Fish and Game Code section 5937, on behalf of one of California's largest wholesale water providers. The settlement provides a perpetual, multimillion dollar program for the re-operation of numerous dams and associated water supply facilities on three watersheds, including flow enhancements, barrier removals and habitat restoration. Brownstein continues to provide legal support associated with obtaining all regulatory approvals of the settlement and its implementation.

  • Representing Golden State Water Company for development of a new water utility service area in Sutter County, California, including water resource and infrastructure planning, negotiation of water supply agreements, and acquisition of certificate of public convenience and necessity from the California Public Utilities Commission.

  • Prosecute water right applications with the State Water Resources Control Board for supplemental water to meet general plan needs.

  • Negotiated an agreement for the joint use of the Upper American River Project ("UARP") for the benefit of El Dorado County, an area of origin community at the headwaters of the American River. The agreement provided access to the UARP and the right to divert and store up to 40,000 acre-feet of water annually.

  • On behalf of San Diego County Water Authority, negotiated a series of complex agreements between state and federal agencies for the settlement of disputes related to California allocation of Colorado River water, including the largest water transfer in United States history, lining of the All-American Canal and water conveyance.

  • Negotiated and gained regulatory approvals for the largest agriculture to urban water transfer in the history of the United States, from Imperial Irrigation District to San Diego County Water Authority for up to 200,000 AFY for 75 years.

News & Events

Board Member, Santa Barbara Youth Ensemble Theatre, Inc.

Publications & Presentations
  • J.D., 1984, with distinction, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, Order of the Coif
  • B.A., 1980, with distinction, University of Redlands
  • California, 1984
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

Who's Who in Professional Services, Pacific Coast Business Times, 2015 & 2016

Top 100 Lawyers in California, Los Angeles Daily Journal, 2014

Best Lawyers in America, 2010-2017

California Super Lawyers

Chambers USA, 2012-2017

Who's Who in Professional Services, Pacific Coast Business Times, 2014

Los Angeles Water Law Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers, 2014


Board of Directors, Limoneira Company, 2012 - Present

Board of Directors, Cadiz Inc., 2011 - Present, CEO - 2013

Board of Advisors, Private Equity Investment in Global Water Industry, Water Asset Management, 2007-2012

Former Board Member and Chair, American Ground Water Trust, 2000-2009

Chair, Natural Resources Subsection of the Real Property Law Section, State Bar of California, 2001-2004

Board Member, Chair Legislative Committee, California Groundwater Resources Association, 1999-2003