David R. E. Aladjem

David R. E. Aladjem


David R. E. Aladjem


David Aladjem helps clients throughout California manage and resolve water resources management problems, especially those at the intersection of water rights, endangered species, and CEQA/NEPA.

He represents water districts, cities, counties and private companies in obtaining, developing and protecting their water rights.  He regularly represents clients in connection with water transfers and about the conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater. 

As both general counsel and special counsel, he provides clients with unparalleled experience and insight in dealing with the regulatory maze and in negotiating with other water rights holders, state and federal agencies and environmental groups.   He practices regularly before the State Water Resources Control Board, the California Department of Water Resources and other state and federal agencies with control over water resources or endangered species.

Clients turn to David for his “out of the box” approach to solving problems. He masters the technical details of a case and then is able to find the legal and political strategies to provide a cost-effective solution for his clients.  Recently, David was one of the lawyers who spent untold hours crafting ACWA’s proposal for the new groundwater legislation and who spent much time during the legislative process working on behalf of clients to improve the legislation.  He is one of the small handful of lawyers in California who can point out the origins of most of the legislative provisions.

David believes that practicing law is about listening, not only to what is said but what is not said.  Recently, in the midst of heated negotiations, the other party used a word that David didn’t expect – “fear.”  The two of them talked about that fear and the way that it had infected the negotiations.  Within 20 minutes, they had re-written the critical provision of the agreement and resolved the dispute.  David believes that by listening carefully – to his clients and to the other sides of a dispute – complex problems can be resolved and new opportunities can open up.  Finding those solutions and helping clients find those opportunities – particularly in the context of long-standing relationships -- are what he enjoys about practicing law.


  • Representing a large group of Northern California water users (water districts, mutual water companies, private individuals and utilities) in proceedings before the State Water Resources Control Board relating to water quality and water right issues for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta Estuary, as well as in connection with the Delta Stewardship Council’s development and adoption of the Delta Plan.
  • Recently defended the Monterey County Water Resources Agency in resolving a proposed revocation of a major water right, as well as on the implementation of the settlement agreement in that matter.
  • Currently representing a joint powers agency that is pursuing an area of origin water right filing in the American River Basin.
  • Currently representing San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District in litigation challenging the designation of critical habitat for the Santa Ana sucker.
  • Currently representing San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District in water rights litigation for the Rialto-Colton groundwater basin in Southern California.
  • Represented two water districts in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties as they successfully obtained water rights totaling almost 200,000 acre-feet/year (or enough water for a city of more than 100,000 people).
  • Successfully represented the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in City of Santee v. County of San Diego (2010) 186 Cal.App.4th 55, which was the first case approving “pre-development” agreements under the Save Tara doctrine.
  • Represented the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in the simultaneous preparation of three EIRs for new prison facilities, none of which were challenged.
  • Represented the Association of California Water Agencies and the California Association of Sanitation Agencies in connection with California’s Recycled Water Policy, negotiating a settlement with environmental groups.
  • Represented the Association of California Water Agencies and the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority in connection with the water use efficiency legislation that became part of the 2009 comprehensive water package.

Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • American Bar Association, Section of Environment, Energy and Resources, Water Resources Committee, Vice-Chair (Past Chair, Water Resources Committee; Past Chair, Annual Water Law Conference)
  • Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), Groundwater Committee
  • Dividing the Waters, National Judicial College, Board of Advisors 
  • Office of the Chancellor, California State University, Water Resources Policy Initiatives 
  • Northern California Water Association
  • Central Valley Clean Water Association

Honors And Rankings

  • AV Preeminent® Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®
  • Sacramento Business Journal, Best of the Bar, 2015, 2017-2018
  • Sacramento Magazine, Top Lawyer, Environmental, Energy & Natural Resources, State, Local & Municipal, 2015-2019
  • American Bar Association, Best Paper, There is No Free Lunch: The Endangered Species Act, The Public-Trust Doctrine and the Takings Clause, April 2018 
  • Association of California Water Agencies, Excellence in Water Leadership, 2009
  • Sacramento Area Council of Governments, Citizen of the Year, 2005
  • Phi Beta Kappa, 1980

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