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Water Rights and Water Permitting


Spencer Fane Environmental attorneys advise and represent special districts, developers, agricultural and industrial operations, property owners and other water users nationwide on matters involving water rights, water transactions, water quality, and regulatory water matters, allowing clients access to an essential resource and helping ensure they divert, use, handle and discharge it in appropriate manner. We work with our clients to minimize costly violations through an understanding of obligations for diversion, usage and discharge, and related permitting and regulations.

Our team covers the full spectrum of water matters for clients in both prior appropriation states and riparian states. We are intimately familiar with Colorado water rights and the state’s unique water court system with one of our attorneys having served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Natural Resources and Environment Section of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, where he represented the state of Colorado and several state agencies in water rights administration and litigation, interstate compact compliance, water conservation projects, and federal environmental issues across Colorado and throughout the Colorado River Basin. Our attorneys take a proactive approach to clients’ water management, and we stay abreast of current and evolving trends including new regulations and limits.

Spencer Fane assists clients with permitting, enforcement response, and litigation related to discharge permits, wetlands, and water rights. We counsel clients in strategic planning for water supply and augmentation, and our team helps resolve interstate and intrastate water, groundwater, surface water, and discharge issues. We also provide a resource for those interested in the sale, lease, and transfer of water rights beneficial to their business operations.

We have experience helping businesses in the oil and gas, manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality, real estate, mining, and utilities industries with their water rights, usage and permitting issues.

Our attorneys adjudicate projects in water courts and before other permitting bodies in addition to handling matters involving municipalities, special districts, and other governmental organizations. We work with local, state, and federal agencies to support clients in permit challenges, wetlands mitigation, and emergency preparedness requirements including SPCC and FRP, and our firm also has substantial experience in Clean Water Act regulations.

Representative Experience

  • Provide legal counsel to special districts and other governmental entities regarding the adjudication, diversion, utilization, treatment and discharge of water resources.
  • Drafted, negotiated and counseled clients in the development of substitute water supply plans, augmentation plans, water rights decrees, reuse plans, exchanges and other administrative and adjudicatory proceedings.
  • Represent property owners and developers in the research, review and analysis of water resource availability, water use and related environmental compliance in all stages of development from due diligence to project completion.
  • Represented local governmental entities in wetland delineation, mitigation and 404 permit application process with Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Represented agribusiness client in the transfer and modification of state water rights and land application permits to support increase in water extraction, change in water use and expansion of water discharge through land application.
  • Represented utility in obtaining necessary wetlands permitting and state water quality certification to support construction of new electric generating facility.