Environment - Water Resources

With 40 years of experience, Van Ness Feldman has extensive, multidisciplinary experience in matters involving the acquisition, distribution, regulation, use, and protection of water.  Through a unique combination of legal, policy, and industry experience and knowledge, the firm’s attorneys and policy professionals bring creative solutions and a problem-solving mindset to the representation of a wide range of clients including municipalities, drinking water utilities, institutional investors, industrial and technology companies, energy facilities and project developers, public power entities, irrigation districts and farms, individual landowners, property developers, trade associations, NGOs, states, and Native American organizations on varied and complex water-related matters. 

Van Ness Feldman’s water resources practice spans the range of legal and policy areas including permitting and regulatory compliance, transactions and market activity, water transfers and contracting, litigation and appeals, mediation and negotiations, legislation, policy advocacy and governmental relations, governance and public law, and sustainability and security.  Tough water issues commonly involve stakeholders with diverse interests, regulatory standards that are imprecise or evolving, scientific and technical data, and future uncertainty.  The firm’s attorneys and professionals bring creativity and persistence to complex water problems.



Van Ness Feldman represents a wide variety of public, private and individual clients in water rights matters, including municipal and privately- owned water utilities; commercial and industrial entities; individual and corporate landowners; and institutional lenders and investors on the permitting, quantification, and exercise of appropriative and riparian water rights.

  • Evaluation of existing water rights.
  • Analysis of validity, quantity, relinquishment and forfeiture.
  • Analysis of suitability for new uses or project proposals
  • Transfers and transactions involving existing water rights
  • New permit application proceedings
  • Impact analysis and mitigation strategies
  • Understanding and managing regulatory agency processes and relationships.
  • Multi-party negotiations and settlement of complex matters
  • Strategies for dealing with water scarcity
  • Familiarity and frequent work with engineers, hydrologists, groundwater scientists, and other technical water professionals
  • Instream flow and fisheries
  • Water reuse and reclaimed water


Van Ness Feldman is active in advising clients seeking to purchase or sell water rights or water entitlements. Van Ness Feldman assists clients with transfers and transactions involving existing water rights, including due diligence, purchase and sale, leases, and easements concerning both land and water rights. In addition, the firm has strong experience in obtaining governmental approval of transactions, defending agency approvals from third party challenge, and developing and implementing mitigation strategies.

  • Purchase and sale
  • Management of regulatory agency processes and relationships
  • Appeals of adverse agency actions and decisions
  • Defense of agency approvals from third party challenge
  • Development and implementation of mitigation strategies
  • Project governance, mitigation, water supply, forbearance, water and wastewater service, and development agreements; dry year leases
  • Frequent work with economists, brokers, and appraisers


Van Ness Feldman represents institutional investors, corporations and municipalities in opportunity analysis, due diligence, acquisition of project and landscape assets, and mergers and acquisitions. Frequently, water assets are a high value element of an overall transaction, with water increasingly having more value than the associated land. The firm’s water lawyers have advised international industrial companies, Fortune 500 technology companies, energy firms, real estate holding companies, and cities in evaluating and acquiring water assets as standalone investments or as an element of a larger venture.


Van Ness Feldman regularly represents clients in water litigation in a variety of forums including local or regional boards and commissions, general stream adjudications, appeals of adverse agency actions and decisions, defense of agency approvals from third party challenge, and appellate courts. The firm has deep experience in representing groups and coalitions as friend of the court (amicus curiae) in proceeding of broad consequence. Increasingly, water disputes are resorting to mediation, facilitated negotiation, and alternative dispute resolution techniques due to the large number of parties, complexity of the issues, high cost and risk of litigation, and uncertain outcomes. The firm’s water lawyers have substantial experience settling disputes for clients in these diverse settings and in serving as mediators to assist other parties reach resolution.


Van Ness Feldman represents numerous cities and water utilities across the country on a wide array of water rights and water supply matters. The firm regularly assists clients with the negotiation of water supply agreements, risk allocation and cost sharing, strategic planning, regional governance, and associated planning processes. The firm’s attorneys are well-versed in municipal law, contracting authority, state and federal agency roles, and crafting agreements in emerging areas such as water banking, drought insurance, and mitigation.


Van Ness Feldman is at the forefront of assisting corporations to inventory water assets and needs, assess risks and opportunities, develop strategic plans, and implement programs to protect water interests for the long term. The firm’s attorneys are involved in policy development in the emerging areas of climate change, the water-energy nexus, sustainable policies and practices, and other public policy touchstones to advance client goals.


Members of the firm have played crucial roles in the development of significant water-related legislation at the federal and state level, and in the implementation of legislation authorizing and funding water resource development projects. Van Ness Feldman regularly assists clients with the development and execution of a comprehensive legislative strategy to achieve specific business and policy objectives.

The firm assists business and municipal clients with the planning and development of complex water and wastewater facilities and infrastructure including devising innovative strategies, contracting mechanisms, and governance structures. The firm regularly works on treatment plants, water distribution systems, groundwater wells and wellfield management, river diversion stations, pipelines and conveyance facilities, storage and reservoirs, reclaimed water facilities, impact mitigation systems. The firm’s water attorneys recently assisted a coalition of municipal water utilities to conceive, draft and pass state legislation, and implement an interlocal governance structure that has gained national recognition as a model.


Van Ness Feldman also assists clients with drinking water regulation, source and treatment and contracting issues, public water utility matters, water system formation and regulation, water utility planning, and regulatory compliance. Van Ness Feldman regularly provides counsel on public policy and legislative advocacy, rulemakings, and understanding new and proposed water legislation and rules.

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Erin K. Bartlett


Washington D.C.


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John H. Clements

Of Counsel

Washington D.C.


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Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming


Washington D.C.


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Stephen C. Fotis


Washington D.C.


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Adam W. Gravley




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Sam Kalen

Senior Environmental & Resources Law Consultant

Washington D.C.


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Tadas A. Kisielius




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Jason Larrabee

Senior Policy Advisor

Washington D.C.


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Anne E. Lynch


Washington D.C.


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Jenna R. Mandell-Rice




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Joseph B. Nelson


Washington D.C.


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R. Scott Nuzum

Of Counsel

Washington D.C.


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Marlys Palumbo




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Michael R. Pincus


Washington D.C.


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Terese (T.C.) Richmond




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Robin M. Rotman


Washington D.C.


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Jonathan D. Simon


Washington D.C.


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Jordan A. Smith

Senior Director, Governmental Issues

Washington D.C.


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Michael A. Swiger


Washington D.C.


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Sean A. Taylor

Senior Director, Governmental Issues

Washington D.C.


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Sharon White

Of Counsel

Washington D.C.


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Van Ness Feldman Named "Go-To Thought Leader" by National Law Review

Van Ness Feldman Ranks Among Best Law Firms in the US

For 14th Consecutive Year, Van Ness Feldman Attorneys Are Among the Best Lawyers in America

Van Ness Feldman Names Sharon White to Of Counsel

Van Ness Feldman Ranks among Best Law Firms in the US; Law Firm of the Year for Native American Law

For 13th Consecutive Year, Van Ness Feldman Professionals Are Among the Best Lawyers in America

Van Ness Feldman Named a "Best Law Firm in the US" for 2017

For 12th Consecutive Year, Van Ness Feldman Professionals Are Among the Best Lawyers in America

Van Ness Feldman Welcomes Sean Taylor to Government Relations Team

Van Ness Feldman Named a "Best Law Firm in the US" for 2016

For 11th Consecutive Year, Van Ness Feldman Professionals Are Among the Best Lawyers in America

Van Ness Feldman Ranked as a "Best Law Firm in the US" by US News & World Report

For 10th Consecutive Year, Van Ness Feldman Professionals Are Among the Best Lawyers in America

Van Ness Feldman Named "Best Law Firm" in Multiple Categories for 2014

For 9th Consecutive Year, Van Ness Feldman Professionals Are Among the Best Lawyers in America

CEQ Proposes Paradigm Shift for Funding Federal Water Investments

26 Van Ness Feldman Attorneys Named Best Lawyers in America for 2013


Water Law and Resource Management in Washington

VNF Talks: U.S. v. Washington, Culvert Subproceeding:
Implications on the Regulated Community in the Northwest

2017 Environmental and Land Use Section Midyear Conference

ABA 2017 Water Law Conference

National Water Resources Association's Western Water Seminar 2016

2016 Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum

International Water & Climate Forum 2015

National Water Resources Association

2015 AWRA Washington State Conference - Water Management Strategies in the Face of Climate Change

Water Law in Washington

Waters of the U.S. TeleBriefing

Hydrology and the Law Conference

American Public Power Association

2014 Water Law Conference

2014 Environmental and Land Use Law Midyear Meeting & Conference

2013 International Conference on Groundwater

2012 Western Water Seminar: Future Threats to Water Supply Deliveries in the West

Irrigation Leader Summer Workshop


EPA Issues Revised CWA Section 401 Guidance to States

EPA Issues New Emergency Response Requirements for Community Water Systems

Final Corps Guidance Issued on Section 408 Permitting

Court Reinforces Finality of Water Rights Determinations and Avoids Ownership Dispute

Obama Era WOTUS Rule Reinstated in Washington State (For Now)

Corps Issues Draft Guidance on Section 408 Permission Requests, Solicits Comments

EPA and Corps Amend Effective Date of WOTUS Rule, Open Door to Legal Challenges

Supreme Court Rules that District Courts Retain Jurisdiction Over "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS) Rule

EPA Proposes to Amend Effective Date of WOTUS Rule

Western Water/Growing Cities: An Examination of 11 States' Approach to the Issue

EPA Proposed Rule to Rescind Definition of "Waters of the United States"

Trump Executive Order Starts Review and Potential Revision of the "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS) Rule

Second Circuit Reinstates EPA's Water Transfers Rule

State Supreme Court Roils Rural Water Supply in Growth Management Decision

Army Corps Proposes Renewal of Nationwide Permits for Work in Waters of the U.S.

Administration Marches Ahead on Critical Habitat:
Final Rules and Exclusion Policy Lay Groundwork for Broader Designation of Critical Habitat and Reshape the Adverse Modification Inquiry

Federal Agencies Release Final "Waters of the United States" Rulemaking, Sending Ripples Through the Regulated Community

Court Delivers Victory to Whatcom County on GMA Case Regarding Rural Water Supply

EPA Releases Final Standards for Cooling Water Intake Structures at Power Plants and Other Facilities

White House Releases Third U.S. National Climate Assessment


Draft Rulemaking Likely to Expand Clean Water Act Jurisdiction

EPA Proposes New Standards to Regulate Water Discharges from Power Plants

Federal District Court Orders Washington State Agencies to Repair Culverts that Block Fish Passage in Violation of Tribes' Treaty Fishing Right

Supreme Court Reverses Ninth Circuit on Clean Water Act Issue