Water Rights & Resources


Since the firm’s earliest work for water users and suppliers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys established its historic Central Valley presence, clients statewide now count on our water expertise – on the Central Coast, the Inland Empire and Southern California regions, the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, and the entire north state.  For more than a decade, our work has reached into Nevada, as well, where several of our attorneys are also licensed to practice.  Downey Brand attorneys provide strategic and substantive expertise in water rights, water supply, water transfers, water quality, groundwater, federal reclamation law, all aspects of public agency law, and overall in meeting the relentless challenges of ever-increasing demand in a constantly evolving legal and political framework.

Our attorneys guide clients daily in the means to acquire, perfect, and defend water rights, regularly preparing and prosecuting applications for rights to appropriate water before the California State Water Resources Control Board.  Downey Brand attorneys analyze and evaluate water rights in connection with property acquisitions, including real estate developments, as well as agricultural, energy and mining ventures, whether the need is to address pre-1914 rights, riparian rights, groundwater and underflow rights, or general appropriative rights.

With water supply demands burgeoning throughout the western states, water transfers have emerged as an essential means of meeting new demands. Our attorneys expertly structure and document water marketing transactions, and guide them through both state and federal regulatory approval processes. Downey Brand has also been involved in all water transfer legislation addressed by the California Legislature, uniquely situating our lawyers to master this complex area and to occupy their influential place among California’s water policymakers.

The increasing importance of groundwater as a source of water supply for California and Nevada has driven dynamic growth in the firm’s groundwater practice. Downey Brand attorneys evaluate groundwater rights, act as special counsel to public agencies developing groundwater management plans pursuant to AB 3030 (Water Code § 10753 et seq.), and form groundwater management districts, including the development of special agencies established by the California Legislature.

A significant number of the firm’s water clients also hold water supply, repayment, water right settlement, or operations and maintenance contracts with the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Our attorneys are well-versed in all aspects of federal reclamation law, how this specialized area of the law interrelates with relevant state law, and counsel both public agencies and private parties on compliance with reclamation law.

Several of our attorneys devote substantial parts of their practices to general counsel services for public agencies that provide water, wastewater, flood control and other services. This work includes advice on the Brown Act, Public Records Act, elections, conflicts of interest, state mandated costs, employee relations, condemnation procedures, and construction, as well as state and federal legislative matters.