O’Melveny Worldwide
Areas of Focus
Areas of Focus

Russell (“Russ”) McGlothlin is an experienced water resources attorney who has spent decades advising clients on water use and management matters in California and the western United States. His expertise includes compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), water rights permitting and compliance, water transfer agreements, groundwater banking, water quality, regulated water utilities, mutual water companies, and reclamation issues. He represents private companies, large agricultural producers and investors, municipalities, special districts, and landowners with transactional negotiations, litigation, and administrative agency proceedings.

Highly active in the development of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, as well as laws designed to reform judicial procedures related to groundwater basin disputes, Russ has an exceptional understanding of high stakes groundwater management issues in California.

A frequent writer and speaker on water topics, Russ’ writings include several law journal articles and two chapters of California Groundwater Management, which is published by the Groundwater Resources Association.

Water Management and Transactions

  • Counsel to one of California’s largest agricultural growers in its compliance efforts with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
  • Counsel to large golf course owner in desert groundwater basin negotiating groundwater pumping rights and other matters to comply with SGMA.
  • Counsel to a large group of agricultural landowners that are parties to the first groundwater basin adjudication in California following the enactment of SGMA.
  • Legal counsel to California’s largest avocado grower for water rights matters.
  • Represented a group of local agencies in Ventura County in connection with the negotiation and drafting of a joint powers agreement to form a Ground Sustainability Agency pursuant to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
  • Advised a broad group of agricultural stakeholders in the Salinas Valley on the development of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency that included significant participation by the agricultural groundwater users within the valley.
  • Drafted a joint powers agreement and supervised the creation of a joint powers authority consisting of six cities on the Monterey Peninsula.
  • Counsel to an association of agricultural groundwater producers from the Santa Paula Groundwater Basin in Ventura County. The scope of representation included the negotiation of amendments to a basin adjudication judgment assigning basin water rights and other issues related to the use and management of resources covered by the judgment.
  • Counsel to a publicly-traded agricultural firm with properties throughout the western United States, including legal advice to the firm on the perfection and protection of its water rights, market access, and matters related to water infrastructure development.
  • Counsel for a national home builder in connection with water supply issues for a 5,000 home residential and commercial development in southern California.
  • Outside general counsel to a large agricultural mutual water company based in Ventura County.
  • Water and land use counsel in connection with the acquisition of a 1,800-acre ranch in Santa Barbara County, as well as related post-acquisition water issues.

Water Litigation

  • Secured reversal 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 area.
  • Represented 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. After eight years of litigation, which included more than 1,000 different parties, the matter was resolved by a settlement among the vast majority of the parties, which created certainty over vital water rights and water management for the basin.



Bar Admissions

  • California


  • University of Michigan, J.D., with honors, 2000
  • University of Oregon, B.A., with honors, 1994

Honors & Awards

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers® for Litigation - Environmental (2023-2024) and Water Law (2022-2024) in Century City, CA; Russell has been listed in Best Lawyers® since 2021
  • Recognized by Best Lawyers® as “Lawyer of the Year”for Water Law in Los Angeles, CA (2023)
  • Who’s Who in Professional Services, Pacific Coast Business Times (2015, 2018)
  • Who’s Who in Clean Tech & Sustainability, Pacific Coast Business Times (2015)
  • Top 40 Under 40, Pacific Coast Business Times

Professional Activities



  • Co-Author, “California Groundwater Management,” Groundwater Resources Association of California, Second Edition, 2005

Law Review Articles

Other Publications



Community Involvement

  • Partnership Council Member, Community Environmental Council
  • Seminar Instructor and Liaison to the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, U.C. Santa Barbara
  • Member, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management’s Council of Legal Advisors

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