Water Law

Bickerstaff is recognized statewide as one of the leading Texas law firms in water law. With a growing population and a strong economic development, securing and supplying water in Texas has become increasingly demanding and challenging. Representing entities in river basins across the state, our attorneys understand the complexities of Texas Water law and the challenges associated with this limited resource. Our expertise in the areas of water rights law and strategic water planning, water utilities and rate-making requirements enables us to assist clients with the development, regulation, and distribution of their water resources, whether groundwater or surface water, to guide them through the myriad of local, state, and federal laws and regulations that affect water rights and water utilities, and to represent clients in often complex and contentious litigation in state and federal court.

We have substantial experience in developing and implementing comprehensive and innovative water supply strategies and water management plans for municipalities, water districts, river authorities, water utilities, and landowners. Our Water Law practice includes:

  • Wholesale and Retail Water and Wastewater Supply Contracts, including representing clients in contractual disputes relating to the provision of water or wastewater service; and negotiating and drafting wholesale raw and treated water supply contracts and wastewater treatment and disposal contracts, including contracts
  • Surface Water Rights, Reuse Permitting, and Interbasin Transfers, including assisting clients in obtaining, amending, and protesting permanent and temporary water rights permits, indirect reuse permits, direct reuse authorizations, and interbasin transfers, and representing clients before TCEQ and SOAH in contested cases regarding the applications;
  • Groundwater Rights and Transactions, including assisting clients in obtaining or amending groundwater permits; providing guidance to clients on complying with or challenging regulatory requirements of groundwater conservation districts; negotiating acquisitions and sales of groundwater rights on behalf of clients;
  • Groundwater Conservation Districts, including providing general counsel services, assisting in the creation of districts, aiding in drafting, adopting, and enforcing the district’s rules; and representing our district clients in the permitting of new and existing groundwater wells, including contested permits;
  • Water Supply and Management, and Comprehensive Strategic Planning, including advising clients on water management issues; assisting them in the development of water management plans; helping clients develop comprehensive strategic plans designed to maintain existing water supplies and identify and acquire additional supplies from sources, including groundwater, desalination, aquifer storage and recovery, reclamation and reuse, new reservoir construction, interstate water marketing, intrastate water transfers between basins, and conjunctive use;
  • Water Sales, Transfers and Leases and Water Marketing, including assisting clients in the sale and transfer of surface water and groundwater rights; advising both sellers and purchasers in drafting and negotiating leases; and counseling clients on the acquisition of groundwater rights and related easements for use of the surface water;
  • Water Facility and Land Acquisitions and Sales, including counseling clients in the acquisition of water facilities and associated real property, such as reservoirs, reservoir sites, flood easements, dams, diversion facilities, water transmission pipelines, utility easements, groundwater wells, and surface easements; and negotiating and preparing all necessary contractual documents in coordination with the financing of the project on behalf of clients;
  • Water and Wastewater Utility Regulation, including assisting clients in preparing, drafting, and adopting extension policies, utility infrastructure requirements, service applications, and service contracts with developers; and preparing rate ordinances and tariffs and advising clients on impact fees;
  • Certificates of Convenience and Necessity, including representing clients in all types of matters involving water or wastewater CCNs, including the application process to obtain or amend CCNs, preparing and filing the CCN applications, providing the necessary notice, and litigating the CCN application, if opposed; and representing clients before the state agency and SOAH when CCN applications are filed by competing utilities, and in decertification and cease-and-desist actions;
  • Retail and Wholesale Ratemaking, including advising clients on matters related to retail rates, including counseling municipalities on various issues regarding their own water and sewer rates and extension policies and ordinances, and representing municipalities on appeals of their outside-city rates; counseling cities on their authority over the rates of investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and representing cities in appeals of the cities’ decisions to change or deny rates of IOUs; and advising clients on matters related to wholesale rates, including representing wholesale service suppliers and purchasers in challenges to rates, terms, and the supply of water;
  • Service Territory Disputes, including litigating water and wastewater service territory disputes that may arise with other utilities, namely water supply corporations (WSCs) on behalf of our municipal clients; negotiating and drafting territory exchange and dual-certification agreements; preparing and filing the necessary regulatory documents to transfer territory; assisting clients in decertification and condemnation proceedings against WSCs; and counseling clients on and litigating federal indebtedness issues, including the requirements of 7 U.S.C. § 1926(b);
  • Acquisition and Sale of Water and Wastewater Systems and Real Property, including representing clients in the acquisition and sale of water and wastewater utilities and related property, including filing all necessary regulatory documents, such as sale-transfer-merger applications and CCN applications;
  • Financing, including identifying and obtaining financing for various types of water supply projects, such as reservoirs, and water transmission, distribution, and treatment systems from a variety of financing sources, including the Texas Water Development Board, the Texas Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the private sector; assisting clients in financing the acquisition of water rights and other water-related projects.