Water Law

As water resource demands continue to increase throughout California, including in its Central or San Joaquin Valley, farms and businesses have to deal increasingly with California’s water laws. Water is a limited resource in California and many interests are competing for access and use. This includes farms, industry, cities, and residential use.

Water law can include both transactions and litigation. In water law transactions, your attorney can negotiate water rights, prepare water access contracts, and ensure compliance with state and local regulations. When there are disputes over water access, water use, or water quality, your litigation attorney can file or respond to civil court claims to enforce agreements and seek money damages.

In our years of experience as California water law attorneys, we have helped small business owners, family-owned farms, and large corporations guarantee water access and plan for future water use. Contact Zimmer & Melton, LLP, for help with your California water law issues.


There are a number of state, federal, and local water use laws that businesses need to navigate involving the use, disposal, and access to water, including the California Water Code, Federal Clean Water Act, and Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Water laws, especially in California, are changing all the time. This is why it is necessary for so many businesses in California to rely on a trusted water law attorney to keep them up to date with the latest regulations and help the company prepare for future changes.

In representing our clients, we have helped farmers, landowners, individuals, businesses and industry in dealing will all types of water law issues, including:

  • Water permits
  • Farmland water use
  • Agricultural water access
  • Industrial water disposal
  • Water quality issues
  • Wastewater issues
  • Environmental litigation
  • Groundwater contamination
  • Water rights
  • Real estate development
  • Water company disputes
  • Environmental remediation
  • Zoning issues
  • Water treatment 


Environmental litigation in California often involves multiple parties, including multiple defendants, co-defendants, state agencies, insurance companies, and former property owners. Environmental litigation involving water pollution, groundwater contamination, and wastewater can take years or even decades to settle. An aggressive environmental litigation law firm can help to reduce liability, avoid unnecessary delays, and obtain full damages.

Environmental litigation practice can involve any aspects of water and land use, including:

  • Eminent domain challenges
  • Remediation cost recovery
  • Toxic tort litigation
  • Insurance coverage
  • Challenging environmental and water permit denials
  • Citizen opposition
  • Civil and administrative court appeals
  • Compliance challenges

Some environmental litigation provides for attorney fees and costs to be paid to the successful party. Attorneys fees can be a significant part of litigation costs and the losing side may have to pay for their own legal costs as well as the legal costs for the prevailing party. This is another reason parties to litigation need a law firm who will aggressively fight for their clients.


Property owners generally have the right to use water where they have riparian rights, access to groundwater, purchased water, and water or springs lacking natural outlets. Landowners can extract percolating groundwater for their own use, which may be subject to area regulations and a “reasonable use” restriction.

Any proposed project to divert water generally requires a water rights permit in California. The permit provides for the amounts, conditions, and timetable for a specific water use project. In applying for the permit, the application is to specify the water source, place of use, purpose, point of diversion, and quantity. After filing, the project generally undergoes an environmental review, public notice, possible investigations or resolutions to protests, followed by issuing the water rights permit.

If illegal water use, waste, or unreasonable use of water is reported, the California Water Board may conduct an investigation. If the investigation determines there is water misuse, the Board may notify those involved to allow a reasonable time to fix the issue, followed by administrative enforcement which can include fines and revocation of a water permit.


At Zimmer & Melton LLP, we have helped farmers, landowners, individuals, businesses and industry navigate California’s ever-changing water laws.  We handle water use planning and permitting, environmental compliance, and water use litigation for our clients throughout California, including Bakersfield and the remainder of Kern County. Contact us with any questions on water law and for experienced legal representation.