Water & Wastewater
Agency Formation · Environmental Compliance · Utility Sale & Acquisition · Design-Build-Finance-Operate · Water Transfers & Exchanges · Sale & Delivery Contracts · Litigation

Considered among the nation’s premier water law practices, Brownstein’s Water Group boasts unparalleled expertise in every facet of water use—from its acquisition at the source to its disposition following use. We are experienced in assisting our clients with water rights, supply, use, distribution and policy as well as water quality, from resource planning to permitting, compliance, litigation and legislation. Our Water Group represents both public and private water producers, suppliers and providers, including municipalities, wholesale and retail water agencies, public utilities, industrial users and real estate and land developers, as well as public and private wastewater utilities, manufacturers, real estate developers, mining operations, agricultural interests and lenders.

Our practice is both local and national in scope, bringing intelligence and experience on national issues along with an appreciation of local challenges. For decades, we have been on the ground dealing in the areas where water issues are most contentious. We have represented major water users and government agencies in some of the most significant and complex water projects in the country, often affecting multiple jurisdictions and states.

Our Water Group’s attorneys have served as counsel in major matters involving the use of water throughout the United States, including the West, the Great Lakes region and the Southeast. The firm has overseen the planning, permitting, design, construction and implementation of water infrastructure projects that today provide reliable clean water for more than 2 million people in California and have entitled, managed and permitted projects that supply water for another 3 million. We have represented clients involving the federal and state water quality laws, including permitting, compliance and defense of enforcement proceedings.

Given our intimate knowledge and understanding of the resource, our clients rely on us not only as legal counselors, but as key advisors to their projects.

Representative Matters

Representative Matters
  • Represents a large federal water project on navigating right of way issues across public lands.

  • Provided legal services to the Central Coast Water Authority for all phases of planning, permitting, environmental compliance, right-of-way acquisition, construction and operation related to a $600 million drinking water delivery system. The project included 150 miles of pipeline, multiple pumping stations and a water treatment plant. Construction disputes were largely resolved by negotiation, with one dispute being successfully defended in court.

  • Since 1991, has served as General Counsel to the Central Coast Water Authority, including coordinating legal services for all phases of planning, permitting, environmental compliance, right-of-way acquisition, construction and operation related to a $600 million drinking water delivery system. The project included 144 miles of buried pipeline, multiple pumping stations and a water treatment plant. Resolved construction disputes by negotiation and successfully defended the Authority in related litigation.

  • Represented Frontier Water Systems against General Electric in multi-patent declaratory judgment action in the District of Utah, as well as in IPR proceeding, involving technology for the removal of selenium in coal-fired power plant wastewater.  The case also involved the enforceability of non-compete contracts under Ontario, Canada law.  Case settled.

  • Special Counsel, City of Rialto. Represent Rialto regarding a wastewater change petition before the State Water Resources Control Board for the purpose of implementing Rialto’s recycled water master plan. 2013 to present.

  • Serves as General Counsel to the Goleta West Sanitary District, a public agency that provides wastewater collection and treatment services to 6000 customers in the Goleta Valley. Brownstein provides the District with advice on public agency operations, including meeting procedures, Brown Act compliance, conflict of interest issues, personnel, and public facility contracting. Brownstein attorneys also draft ordinances and resolutions and negotiate on behalf of the District with other local public agencies, including the University of California, Santa Barbara and the County of Santa Barbara.

  • Represents the City of Aurora in its $700 million Prairie Waters Project. This work involves complex water rights transactions, water court representation as well as state and local permitting.

  • Represents the Interstate Stream Commission in the transfer of water rights on the Pecos River for river augmentation and compact compliance purposes. The case involves 33 rights and is one of the largest transfers in state history.

  • On behalf of a joint powers authority, negotiated, drafted and implemented nearly a dozen drought water transfers and exchange agreements to supplemented imported State Water Project deliveries during historic and extended drought in California. Program optimized use of existing water supply and delivery infrastructure.

  • Represent one of the largest federal water contractors in the United States to ensure that its members have a long-term dependable supply of water to meet project purposes.

  • Representation of several municipal providers, a regulated utility, a water district, and a mutual water company, in priority groundwater basins located around the state, with respect to implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014.

  • Water counsel for a national land developer in support of a project located within the jurisdiction of a water district that imposed a moratorium on all new service connections.

  • Provide federal representation to the Blackfeet Tribe in connection with the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act, which ratifies the Blackfeet Tribe-Montana Water Rights Compact and authorizes federal funding for the Tribe's water related projects.

  • On behalf of a national homebuilder, obtained approval of the Water Supply Assessment (SB 610) for development of a 1,500 acre-property in Southern California proposed to include 5,400 residential units and commercial uses. The project water supply included the use of imported water, surface water, groundwater, stormwater and recycled water supplies over a 30-year build-out. The project raised numerous water supply and water quality issues, including the production of groundwater from adjudicated and non-adjudicated basins, groundwater storage, conjunctive use, the delivery and use of imported State Water Project supplies, water re-use, flood protection and stormwater management.

  • Special water rights counsel to a city with respect to possible options for reorganization of the city’s water and wastewater enterprises, which resulted in the city’s election to undertake a municipal service review with the local LAFCO.

  • Counsel to a town with substantial groundwater rights in Nevada's Carson River Valley in water rights litigation brought by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Indians. Litigation included challenges to State Engineer rulings on water right change applications for new development. Cases were filed in both federal district and state district courts and involved issues of jurisdiction and venue in addition to substantive water law. Appeals were filed by the Tribe in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Nevada Supreme Court.

  • Advised a major California city on reorganization of its water, wastewater and solid waste utilities, including evaluation of dependent and independent special district, privatization and public-private partnership options and financing. Legal services were provided in conjunction with financial consultants to advise the city on developing an option to meet its short and long term financial goals and commitments.

  • 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 the allocation of Colorado River water, including the largest water transfer in United States history, lining of the All-American Canal and water conveyance.

  • Defended NEPA, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and Federal Power Act challenge to FERC's issuance of a 50-year permit renewal for hydroelectric dam for major utility in Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Related Services

Meet The Team

Stephanie Osler Hastings Shareholder T 805.882.1415 shastings@bhfs.com
Russell M. McGlothlin Shareholder T 805.882.1418 rmcglothlin@bhfs.com
Amy M. Steinfeld Shareholder T 805.882.1409 asteinfeld@bhfs.com
Robert J. Saperstein Shareholder T 805.882.1417 rsaperstein@bhfs.com
Ryan A. Smith Shareholder T 202.747.0507 rsmith@bhfs.com
Steven A. Amerikaner Shareholder T 805.882.1407 samerikaner@bhfs.com
Beth Collins Shareholder T 805.882.1419 bcollins@bhfs.com
Chris Frahm Shareholder T 619.702.6917 cfrahm@bhfs.com
Diane C. De Felice Shareholder T 310.500.4613 ddefelice@bhfs.com
Bradley J. Herrema Shareholder T 310.500.4609 bherrema@bhfs.com
Gary M. Kvistad Shareholder T 805.882.1414 gkvistad@bhfs.com
Lawrence J. Jensen Shareholder T 202.747.0509 ljensen@bhfs.com
Ronda L. Sandquist Shareholder T 303.223.1191 rsandquist@bhfs.com
Scott S. Slater Shareholder T 310.500.4600 sslater@bhfs.com
Jon Hrobsky Policy Director T 202.872.5294 jhrobsky@bhfs.com
Luke D. Johnson Policy Director T 202.747.0513 ldjohnson@bhfs.com