Water Rights

Water is both a unique and an invaluable resource. With an ever-growing demand, and increasingly constrained supply, water rights, water supply and water management issues have become critical concerns across the United States. Resolving today’s water supply and water quality issues requires multi-disciplinary legal skills and solution-based approaches, assuring regulatory compliance and meeting the needs of both businesses and our nation’s growing population.
Best Best & Krieger LLP is a national leader in advising on and resolving water and environmental matters. As California’s largest full-service public agency law firm, we represent the entire spectrum of public agencies that deal with and are affected by water-related issues, including counties, cities, water suppliers, water supply management entities and special districts of every kind. We also represent private industry, advising businesses on modern-day water matters. We advise industries on issues ranging from development and land use, agriculture, manufacturing and processing, food and beverage and other concerns. Recognized for unmatched experience in water rights, water quality and related environmental fields, BB&K handles some of the most cutting-edge water-related issues impacting businesses.
Influencing Water Law & Policy
BB&K plays an integral role in shaping state and federal water law and policy. Whether in helping clients or through academic or professional associations, our lawyers are constantly involved in drafting and influencing water-related legislation, rules and regulations, and helping shape water resource policies. Our lawyers literally wrote the book on California water, an authoritative treatise covering the many complicated and inter-related issues of water rights, supply, quality and environmental law. We regularly teach college and professional courses, speak at conferences and publish articles and other literature on all aspects of water rights and water quality.
In addition, we serve as outside counsel to emerging nations, including South Africa, Malaysia, Namibia and St. Lucia, helping them develop water laws and policy to suit their specific and changing needs. Our depth and breadth of experience uniquely positions BB&K to advocate and problem solve for clients that are impacted by an ever-evolving web of water resource-related laws and regulations.
Unmatched Experience & Comprehensive Service
 Additionally, we advise on and assist with:

  • Navigating Sustainable Groundwater Management Act’s procedural requirements and assuring compliance
  • Developing and implementing groundwater sustainability plans to protect and manage groundwater supplies on a sustainable basis
  • Addressing water quality, Endangered Species Act, California Environmental Quality Act, and National Environmental Policy Act issues and other legal and regulatory requirements that come into play regarding water rights and supply
  • Securing MS4 and construction stormwater permits
  • Advocating regarding water policies and regulations

BB&K is a vigorous advocate for our water resource clients in state and federal courts across California and the West, and before the State Water Resources Control Board, Regional Water Quality Control Boards and other administrative agencies. We represent clients in all types of water rights proceedings, enforcement actions, permit appeals, citizen suits and other litigation.

From interstate compacts to regional water supply adjudications to local proceedings and landowner disputes, when it comes to water matters, BB&K does it all and has seen it all.


How Can Government Relations Help You?

Environmental, water, telecommunications and transportation projects by both public agencies and businesses can benefit from our advocacy services. Let us help you be heard!

Learn more about BB&K's Government Relations services.

  • Litigating cases and negotiating key agreements involving major water bodies across California, including the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the Mojave River, Colorado River, Santa Ana River, Santa Margarita River, San Jacinto River, Ventura River and the Santa Ynez River.
  • Adjudicating rights agreements for groundwater basins such as Santa Maria, Chino, Monterey, Sacramento, Antelope Valley, Warren Valley, Beaumont, Six Basins, Kern, San Joaquin, Coachella Valley and San Juan.
  • Advising a multitude of public agency and private clients throughout California regarding legal requirements and implementation of SGMA.
  • Advising on inter-related issues of water rights and state and federal Endangered Species Act requirements in various watersheds, such as the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, the Ventura River and the Santa Ynez River.
  • Helping prepare and implement water supply planning documents for clients throughout California, including urban water management plans, water supply assessments, written verifications and water supply analyses under CEQA and NEPA.
  • Serving as general counsel and city attorney and handling all water rights, supply, management, contractual, litigation and other matters for numerous water agencies and cities through California and the West.
Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | General & Special Counsel | Government Policy & Public Integrity | Municipal Law | Special Districts | Water
Areas of Focus: Endangered Species | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | Special Districts | Water | Water Quality | Water Rights

John D. Freshman

Senior Director of Governmental Affairs*


(202) 370-5301

Areas of Focus: Air Quality | Endangered Species | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Government Relations | Hazardous Waste | Water
Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | Special Districts | Water | Water Rights
Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Water | Water Quality | Water Rights
Areas of Focus: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) | Endangered Species | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Special Districts | Water Rights
Areas of Focus: Election Law | Eminent Domain | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | Special Districts | Water | Water Quality | Water Rights
BB&K In the News Apr 20, 2021

Legal Analysis Reports Following Groundwater Pumping Decision

Daily Journal and Law360 Go In-Depth on BB&K Antelope Valley Groundwater Adjudication Success

Legal Alerts Mar 25, 2021

Appellate Decisions Limiting Groundwater Pumping in an Overdrafted Basin

Antelope Valley Groundwater Basin Adjudication

Client Successes Mar 17, 2021

BB&K Secures Key Groundwater Pumping Rights Ruling

Decision in Antelope Valley Groundwater Basin Adjudication First of its Kind

Event Oct 20, 2020

Navigating SGMA Groundwater Allocations & Minimizing Legal Risk

Environmental Defense Fund

Authored Articles & Publications Oct 13, 2020

SGMA and Water Rights: Avoiding Litigation Risks

BB&K’s Eric Garner Co-Authors Law Journal Article and Presents Webinar

Client Successes Sep 22, 2020

Nevada Water Rights Victory

BB&K Attorney Rod Walston Successful in Public Trust Doctrine Dispute in Nevada Supreme Court

Legal Alerts Sep 08, 2020

DWR Releases Draft Guidebook for 2020 Urban Water Management Plans

Stakeholders Have Until Sept. 21 to Review and Comment

Legal Alerts Sep 01, 2020

California Supreme Court Clarifies Ministerial vs. Discretionary Actions Under CEQA for Well Construction Permits

Decision in Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus Case

BB&K In the News May 20, 2020

Partner Michael Riddell Discusses Water Rights on Bloomberg Law Podcast

Roundtable Discussion Includes Litigation, SGMA, Conservation and More

BB&K Webinar May 12, 2020

Groundwater Sustainability Plans: What We Now Know and What is Yet to be Learned

BB&K Free Webinar

BB&K Webinar Feb 20, 2020

SGMA and Groundwater Rights: To Adjudicate or Not to Adjudicate

BB&K Free Webinar

Legal Alerts Jan 13, 2020

New Environmental and Telecommunications Laws

Part 3: California Laws Impacting Public Agencies for 2020

Press Releases Dec 17, 2019

Managing Partner Eric Garner Named Environmental Law MVP

Water Law Veteran Honored by Law360

Legal Alerts Oct 16, 2019

Groundwater Recharge Projects Get Boost Under AB 658

New California Law to Help Achieve SGMA Requirements

Legal Alerts May 02, 2019

SGMA: DWR Announces Draft Basin Prioritization

Comments Accepted Until May 30

Authored Articles & Publications Apr 30, 2019

"California Water," Third Edition

Eric Garner’s Updates to Text on Historical, Legal and Policy Issues Affecting California Water Use

Client Successes Apr 24, 2019

Tribe Lacks Standing in Water Suit

Representing Desert Water Agency, BB&K Attorneys Won Partial Dismissal of Case

Authored Articles & Publications Feb 28, 2019

Aquifer Management Success

In the Water International Journal, BB&K Managing Partner Eric Garner Identifies Factors for Groundwater Sustainability

Press Releases Feb 22, 2019

Groundwater Rights Trial Earns Top Verdict Honor from Daily Journal

BB&K Leads Water Agencies’ Defense

Client Successes Oct 01, 2018

Groundwater Rights Jury Finds in Favor of Public Water Suppliers

BB&K Team Successfully Defends City in First-of-its-Kind Trial in California

Legal Alerts Aug 06, 2018

Groundwater Extraction Permits Not Subject to CEQA in San Luis Obispo County

Approval is a Ministerial Action, not subject to CEQA, Appellate Court Finds

Legal Alerts May 14, 2018

Administrative Hearing Office Proposed for State Water Resources Control Board

Proposed Legislation Would Provide for Efficient Hearings by Qualified Officers

Videos Apr 24, 2018

The Price of an Aging Infrastructure on the Environment

The Bill is Due: Now What? Infrastructure, Pensions and the Environment

BB&K In the News Mar 22, 2018

Debating an Environmental Water Right in California

Managing Partner Eric L. Garner Interviewed by the Water Education Foundation

Legal Alerts Feb 23, 2018

California Water Board Lacks Jurisdiction to Curtail Water Use by Senior Water Rights Holders

Court Decision on California Water Code Authority

Client Successes Feb 05, 2018

Water Law Case Overturned for City

BB&K Partners Gene Tanaka and Shawn Hagerty Win in California Appellate Court

BB&K In the News Oct 24, 2017

Water to Grow Marijuana in California’s Desert

BB&K Managing Partner Eric Garner Interviewed by Water Deeply

Legal Alerts May 22, 2017

State Water Board Adopts Groundwater Extraction Fees For SGMA Intervention

Fee Imposition Will Begin This Summer

Legal Alerts Apr 11, 2017

Final California Water Conservation Plan and Proposed Legislation Released

Urban Water Suppliers Face Far-Reaching Consequences

Authored Articles & Publications Mar 16, 2017

Public Trust Doctrine & Water Rights

The Walker Case: Does the Public Trust Doctrine Apply to Water Rights Established in Judicial Decrees?

Client Successes Feb 08, 2017

BB&K Represents Water District in Historic Indian Water Rights Settlement

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indian Water Rights Settlement Act

Press Releases Jan 20, 2017

Southern California Super Lawyers 2017

Five BB&K Partners Receive Honor

Dec 01, 2016

[WEBINAR] Prop 64: The Basics

Cultivating New Regulations and Confronting New Challenges Presented By Marijuana Legalization

Videos Nov 22, 2016

Joseph Byrne Video Bio


Videos Nov 18, 2016

Eric L. Garner Video Bio

Managing Partner

BB&K In the News Nov 17, 2016

Drought Policies, Price of Water Lands in Court

Hillsborough, Represented by BB&K Attorney Kimberly Hood, Faces Suit from Residents

Legal Alerts Nov 15, 2016

The Future of U.S. Infrastructure and Local Control Amid Post-Election Uncertainty

Post-Election Opportunities for Local Government Agencies

Authored Articles & Publications Nov 09, 2016

Endangered Fish v. Humans: The Fight Over Competing Water Needs

The Struggle to Find Balance is Explored by BB&K Partner Gene Tanaka in Municipal Lawyer Magazine

BB&K In the News Oct 27, 2016

BB&K’s Reimagining the Cadillac Desert

Maven’s Notebook Shares Highlights from Water Event

Press Releases Sep 21, 2016

BB&K Partner Jeffrey V. Dunn Named One of the Top 100 Lawyers in California

Resolutions in Two Major Water Rights Matters Cited by the Daily Journal

BB&K In the News Sep 02, 2016

In Focus: Eric Garner

BB&K Managing Partner Eric Garner, a Board Member of The National Judicial College’s Dividing the Waters Program, is Profiled in The Network Note

Authored Articles & Publications Aug 24, 2016

Sweeping Six-Case Win For Water District Helps Secure Orange County’s Water Supply

BB&K Partner Michelle Ouellette Authors a Summary of Recent Appellate Victory for Orange County Lawyer Magazine

BB&K In the News Aug 15, 2016

How Israel Manages its Water Better than California Does

Managing Partner Eric Garner Among Authorities Who Share Insights in the Jewish Journal

Legal Alerts Jul 27, 2016

California State Water Board Extends Public Comment Period for Wetlands Policy; New Permits Likely to be Required

Public Comments Due Aug.18

BB&K In the News Jul 25, 2016

Water Futures

Managing Partner Eric Garner Discusses Changing Water Infrastructure with Best Lawyers

Legal Alerts Jul 20, 2016

California State Water Board Releases Revised Drinking Water Fee Regulations

Public Comments Due July 29th

Legal Alerts May 19, 2016

Emergency Groundwater Sustainability Plan Regulations Adopted By California Water Commission

Key Principle: Sustainable Management Through Local Efforts

Legal Alerts May 09, 2016

New Executive Order Released By California Governor for Long-Term Water Planning Released

State Water Resources Control Board Releases Draft Regulation to Modify Water Conservation Requirements

BB&K In the News May 05, 2016

California Groundwater Regulation Hangs on a Few Words

BB&K Managing Partner Eric Garner Discusses in Circle of Blue Controversy Over the Word “Substantial” in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

Legal Alerts May 04, 2016

California State Water Board Set to Impose New Drinking Water Fees on Public Water Systems

Public Comments Due June 22

Videos Apr 21, 2016

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Beneficial and Reasonable Use

Video Series

Legal Alerts Mar 11, 2016

March 15 Deadline Approaches For California Water Suppliers to Apply for Adjustments to Water Conservation Requirements

Climate, Growth and Water Supply Adjustments Ease Conservation Burden in Some Communities

Videos Feb 24, 2016

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Prescriptive Rights

Video Series

Legal Alerts Feb 19, 2016

DWR Releases Draft Emergency Regulations for Groundwater Sustainability Plans in California

Proposed Regulations Include Required Plan Elements and Criteria for State Review

Videos Feb 02, 2016

Water Rights with Eric Garner: California Groundwater Rights

Video Series

Legal Alerts Jan 21, 2016

Shasta Lake Water Levels Subject of New Litigation

Water Contractors Challenge SWRCB Order Potentially Restricting Water

Legal Alerts Jan 20, 2016

California State Water Board Releases Proposed Text of Emergency Water Conservation Regulation

Public Comments Due Jan. 28

Authored Articles & Publications Jan 07, 2016

Structuring Tiered Water Rates Under Conflicting Court Decisions: Interpreting the California Constitution

Partner Kelly Salt Writes About Tiered Rates in the January 2016 American Water Works Association Journal

Videos Jan 06, 2016

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Appropriative Rights to Surface Water

Video Series

Videos Dec 08, 2015

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Riparian Water Rights

Video Series

Legal Alerts Aug 29, 2014

Legislature Adopts Historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

Act Imposes Groundwater Management and Reporting Requirements on Local Agencies

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