Kevin M. O'Brien

Kevin M. O'Brien


Kevin M. O'Brien


Kevin O’Brien assists clients throughout California in water rights, water quality, endangered species and environmental matters.  His clients include private landowners, water districts, cities, counties, real estate developers, wineries and mining companies.

He litigates water cases in state and federal courts and handles major water-related administrative hearings.  He also negotiates agreements for the purchase and sale of water rights and contractual entitlements to water.  Kevin practices regularly before the State Water Resources Control Board, the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Kevin has a reputation for solving problems.  Clients refer to his calm, respectful approach as a proven asset when working with opposing counsel and agency decision-makers.  Sacramento Lawyer magazine has described him as a lawyer who “advocates principled positions that reflect the law and are intended to achieve a solution for all the parties, not just his clients.”

Kevin is a former Managing Partner of Downey Brand.


  • Since the 1990s, Kevin has represented a large group of Northern California water users in proceedings before the State Water Resources Control Board relating to water quality and water right issues for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta Estuary and associated watersheds.  
  • He represents the court-appointed Watermaster in the City of Los Angeles v. City of San Fernando groundwater adjudication (Los Angeles County).
  • He serves as special counsel to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency where he has represented the Agency in numerous proceedings relating to the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin.
  • He has served as trial counsel in two groundwater basin adjudications – the Seaside Basin in Monterey County and the Santa Maria Basin in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.
  • He negotiated and successfully implemented one of the first major transfers of State Water Project water entitlements from an agricultural water user located in Kern County to a municipal water user located in Contra Costa County.
  • He represented a major developer in successfully securing a water supply for a residential and industrial project in Madera County.

Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • American Bar Association, Section of Environment, Energy and Resources, Past Chair; Water Resources Committee
  • Groundwater Law & Hydrology, UC Davis Extension, Instructor
  • State Bar of California, Real Property Law Section, Executive Committee, Former Member
  • Sacramento County Bar Association, Environmental Law Section
  • Placer County Bar Association
  • Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), State Legislative Committee
  • Northern California Water Association (NCWA)
  • Previously served in the Solicitor’s Honors Program, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC
  • Capital Public Radio, Past Chair, Board of Directors
  • Eureka Schools Foundation (a non-profit raising private funds for the Eureka Union School District), Former President

Honors And Rankings

  • Best Lawyers in America©, Water Law, Environmental Law, 2015-2020
  • Best Lawyers® 2019 Environmental Law "Lawyer of the Year" in Sacramento
  • Sacramento Business Journal, Best of the Bar, 2015-2018
  • Sacramento Magazine ,Top Lawyer, Environmental, Energy & Natural Resources, 2015-2019 
  • Super Lawyers, Northern California Super Lawyer, Environmental, 2012-2019

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