Chris Frahm

Chris Frahm



Decades of leadership advising water utilities and agencies in strategic planning and rate setting. Strong southern California government relationships. Steadfast veteran of the water industry with a multidisciplinary perspective on tough water issues.

Chris Frahm skillfully navigates legal, political and business challenges to ensure water agency and utility infrastructure projects are successful and sustainable. Whether creating a strategic plan or drafting an agreement, she brings a track record of getting deals done and a determined approach to achieve optimal results designed to meet the needs of all parties and stakeholders. Few, if any, can rival Chris’ experience in and understanding of water issues in southern California. She works closely with key policy leaders and legislative decision-makers to develop and implement public policy-based solutions that meet her clients’ water, energy and infrastructure needs while mitigating risk in an ever-changing political, financial and legal landscape. 

Chris’ first-hand knowledge of the near- and long-term implications of water supply matters, including water rate setting, are a product of her decade of service,  including as chair of the board of the San Diego County Water Authority. This coupled with her time in private practice allow her to offer an informed, strategic perspective on this client’s most challenging water strategy and rate issues. 

A trailblazer in her legal practice, Chris also makes it a priority to serve as a leader at the firm and in the industry. She frequently speaks before a wide variety of professional and community forums, including public agencies and local ratepayer groups, on the subject of water reliability and rates, water distribution system access, underserved communities and other current water law and public policy issues.

Representative Matters

Recent Experience

  • Delivered a significant victory on behalf of our client, the San Diego County Water Authority. In Summer 2020, a San Francisco Superior Court awarded the Water Authority $44.4 M in a final judgment for two cases covering rates paid by San Diego County ratepayers from 2011-2014. The award included $28.7 million in damages to be paid by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), which controls the transport of Colorado River water. The case rectified improper charges, that had they continued, would have cost San Diego County residents more than $500 M over the life of the contract. The judgement also acknowledged the required increase in the Water Authority’s preferential rights to MWD water, by approximately 100,000 acre-feet a year. Brownstein has represented the Water Authority on Colorado River and MWD matters for more than two decades including playing a key role on the litigation team, serving as special counsel advising on all program, strategy and rate issues.

  • A district encountered a dispute with a Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) regarding jurisdiction over annexations and the district's provision of additional latent services. The district and LAFCO agreed to resolve their dispute through the introduction of special legislation rather than resorting to litigation. Services included drafting special state legislation, working with legislative consultants for the California Assembly and Senate, and governmental relations services.

  • Advised private project developers related to proposed desalination plants in Mexico and water supply pipelines to the United States.

  • 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.

Insights & Publications



  • J.D., 1976, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, with honors
  • B.A., 1973, California State University, Long Beach, summa cum laude

Previous Experience

Chairwoman of the Board, San Diego County Water Authority


  • California
  • Supreme Court of California
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of California


Metropolitan Water District of Southern California: Board Member (1992-1999); Vice-Chair of the Board (1994-1998); Chair, Water Policy and Audit Committees; Vice-Chair, Engineering and Operations Committee

San Diego County Water Authority: Board Member (1987-1999); Chair of the Board (1997-1998); Chair, Water Policy, Finance and Imported Water Committees

Community Involvement


Director Emeritus, San Diego Convention Center Corporation Director Emeritus Program

Board Member, San Diego Downtown Partnership

Board Member, Water Now Alliance

Equality Counsel, Equality California

Host Committee, Equality California’s San Diego Equality Awards

Host Committee, Equality California's Los Angeles Equality Awards

Former, Advisory Committee, Mingei Museum Capital Project

Former, Board Member, Southwest Megaregion Alliance

Former, Board Member, Equinox Project (an initiative of the Center for Sustainable Energy)

Former Member, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee

Former Member, Executive Committee and Board of Directors, California Foundation on Environment and the Economy (16 years)

Former San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce: Board of Directors; Chair, Water Committee; Chair, Infrastructure Committee

Former Chair of the Board, San Diego Convention Center Corporation

Former Chair of the Board, San Diego Civic Theatre

Dinner Chair, United Cerebral Palsy, Padres Awards Dinner (5 years)



San Diego Business Journal, Women of Influence 50 Over 50, 2023

San Diego Business Journal, Women Who Mean Business Award, 2016

Pete Wilson Leadership Award, 1998