O’Melveny’s Water Practice helps a wide range of clients navigate all of the complicated legal issues implicated by this ever-more-important resource.
From complex deal work to high-stakes litigation, our water-related experience extends to almost every conceivable issue a water business, water investor or financier, major water user, or government entity could face.
O’Melveny has been at the forefront of water litigation in California for over a century, including the first groundwater basin adjudication ever filed in the state. In the decades since, we have accumulated an unrivalled record of accomplishment counseling clients in some of the most complex water cases throughout the United States. We have successfully represented clients in litigation related to the development of tidelands and coastal areas, disputes involving the demarcation of water agency boundaries and allocation rights, water issues related to oil and gas exploration and production, and high-profile controversies involving agricultural water allotments and access. Our group includes well-known thought leaders in the area, as well as public servants, including a Special Master for the United States Supreme Court in state v. state water litigation, and General Counsel of the New York Department of Environmental Protection. Our water team is at the forefront litigating the most complicated questions arising out of California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), as well the contours of federal reserved water rights. Our water trial lawyers were named the best Environmental/Natural Resources litigators in California in 2019, and The American Lawyer has recognized our water litigators’ signature victories in groundwater litigation in its national Litigators of the Week reports. Our team regularly speaks at the country’s largest water conferences, and one member of our group has trained judges on water law questions for years. There is no piece of water litigation that our team cannot handle—matching deep substantive knowledge and experience in water law with best-in-the-country litigation skills.
We offer a multidisciplinary team of attorneys experienced in various corporate and regulatory matters related to the water and wastewater industries. Working seamlessly with our environmental law experts, land use, and regulatory lawyers, we assist our clients both on the feasibility of proposed projects, and in the documentation of the transaction to protect our clients' rights and limit their liability.
The practice regularly handles matters involving:
- Water Rights/supply
- Water Rights/infrastructure for long term development projects
- Acquisition of private water companies/systems
- Water facilities for master planned communities
- Water project financing
- Water transfer and wheeling agreements
- Produced water facilities
- Water quality/contamination issues
- Development of water infrastructure facilities
- Pipeline systems
- Tidelands and related issues
Water Law Thought Leadership
- Legal Control of Water Resources - Buzz Thompson is the lead author of the principal book on water law in the United States (now in its sixth edition)
- Wall Street Journal - Buzz Thompson was quoted in a December 2019 Wall Street Journal article on water disputes in Florida and the southeastern United States
- 2019 Groundwater Law Legislation Forum - Russ McGlothlin was a panelist on the “SGMA Status and Forecast” panel at the 2019 Groundwater Law and Legislation Forum
- 2019 ABA Conference - Heather Welles was a panelist at the American Bar Association’s 37th Annual Water Law Conference
- 2018 City Attorneys’ Annual Conference - Russ McGlothlin delivered a speech called “How SGMA Will Affect Municipal Groundwater Suppliers” at the 2018 City Attorneys’ Annual Conference
- Los Angeles Times - Matt Kline, Buzz Thompson, and Heather Welles authored a June 2018 op-ed in The Los Angeles Times emphasizing the water-related problems that could result from 2018’s “Three Californias” ballot initiative
- 2018 ABA Conferences - Buzz Thompson was a panelist at the American Bar Association’s 36th Annual Water Law Conference and at its 47th Annual Spring Environment, Energy, and Resources Conference
- National Public Radio (NPR) - Matt Kline was interviewed by NPR’s “Marketplace” on the increasing use of public-private partnerships for the construction and redevelopment of drinking and waste water infrastructure
- KQED - Heather Welles was interviewed by San Francisco PBS broadcaster KQED about recent proposals from the California Water Resources Control Board to restrict water usage