Zach Smith


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Zach Smith is a litigation associate in O’Melveny’s Newport Beach office, where he represents clients in connection with water and natural resource matters. Zach focuses on a wide array of water rights issues. He assists clients with surface and groundwater litigation, water right assessments, water transfers, water banking, and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Landowners routinely turn to Zach to help them optimize their water rights portfolios when considering new agricultural or other operations. 

Before coming to California, Zach served as the Staff Attorney of the Colorado Water Trust, where he helped design and scale Colorado’s environmental water rights market in collaboration with broad sectors of Colorado’s water users. Zach worked closely with growers, water districts, and state agencies to build innovative, multi-benefit water projects across the state. Zach has written and spoken extensively on market-based approaches to river restoration.  

He is currently a member of the University of Denver Water Law Review’s advisory board and has taught agricultural water resources at Cal Poly Pomona’s Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture.

Honors & Awards

  • 2018 City of Steamboat Springs Proclamation Recipient 
  • 2017 Award for Innovation from the Southern Colorado Conservation Awards
  • 2012 El Pomar Foundation Award of Excellence in Environmental Issues


Bar Admissions

  • California
  • Colorado


  • University of Denver College of Law, J.D.
  • Washington University in St. Louis, B.A., History, Earth and Planetary Sciences Minor

Professional Activities


  • Standardizing Temporary Water Transfer Procedures in Colorado, U. Denv. Water L. Rev. (2019)
  • Refining Streamflow Restoration Approaches with Agriculture, The Water Report #179 (2019)
  • Ethical Issues for Water Lawyers: Dealing with Parties Who Are Unrepresented or Have Limited Representation, 22 U. Denv. Water L. Rev. 25 (2018)
  • Making Colorado’s Rivers a (Senior) Priority, 20 U. Denv. Water L. Rev. 369 (2017)
  • Instream Flow Leasing in Colorado, The Water Report #121 (2014)


  • Water UCI Leadership Board
  • Las Posas Water Rights Coalition v. Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency. Representing a coalition of large landowners in a comprehensive groundwater basin adjudication under California’s new statutory adjudication scheme.
  • Petitions to Revoke or Revise the Status of the Kings River System on the Fully Appropriated Stream System Declaration. Representing a large landowner in a State Water Board assessment of available water on the Kings River.
  • Advised multiple landowners in development of water supplies and conjunctive use strategies.
  • Developed comprehensive assessment of water rights and supply opportunities for large ranch in Southern California
  • Represented nonprofit in securing contractual right to available hydropower capacity at an off-channel Colorado River facility.