Natural Resources and Water
Murphy & Evertz is uniquely qualified to represent clients in water rights and water use related matters. At the administrative and planning level, we provide services involving analysis of water rights, acquiring new supplies and analyzing water supply availability for new developments, including the preparation of water supply assessments and water verifications. Murphy & Evertz attorneys have extensive experience with water rights litigation, including representation of clients in adjudications of groundwater basins and stream systems, including the development of physical solutions. Representative examples:
Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin Adjudication
Current representation of the Indian Wells Valley Water District (“District”) as Special Counsel. On June 16, 2021, the District filed a cross-complaint for a comprehensive water rights adjudication of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin No. 6-54 pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 830 et seq. The cross-complaint seeks a judgment to comprehensively determine and adjudicate all groundwater rights in the basin and to provide a physical solution for the perpetual and continuous management of the basin. The firm also represents the District in several related actions brought by other parties challenging the validity of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan adopted by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority adopted January 2020.
Antelope Valley Groundwater Adjudication
Murphy & Evertz represented the City of Lancaster and the Rosamond Community Services District in the Antelope Valley Groundwater Adjudication
The adjudication involves a series of consolidated cases which jointly seek to adjudicate all water rights within the Antelope Valley and involve all water right claimants, including the federal government, within the basin. Six phases of the trial were held: Phase 1, which determined the boundaries of the basin; Phase II, which addressed the issue of whether there was more than one groundwater basin; Phase III, which addressed the issues of safe yield and overdraft; Phase IV, which determined current pumping; Phase V which included a determination of the Federal Reserve water right and to address the issue of entitlement to return flows from imported water (this phase was suspended to afford the parties an opportunity to pursue global settlement discussions), and Phase VI which was a trial to hear evidence on a proposed physical solution/settlement agreed upon by most of the parties and to consider objections of non-stipulating parties to the proposed physical solution. Judgment on the physical solution was entered December 23, 2015. Appeals were filed by several parties, including petitions for review filed with the California Supreme Court. All appeals were successfully resolved by 2021 with the judgment and physical now final.
Mojave River Adjudication
Murphy & Evertz attorneys represented plaintiffs City of Barstow and Southern California Water Company who initiated the Mojave River Adjudication. The suit determined water priorities in the overdrafted groundwater basin. The Mojave River Basin area extends approximately 3,600 square miles and encompasses several cities, including Victorville, Hesperia, Apple Valley, Adelanto, and Barstow. The firm’s client the City of Barstow and the Southern California Water Company, filed the action against the City of Adelanto, the Mojave Water Agency, and other upstream water producers, claiming that upstream groundwater production was adversely impacting their water supply, and that the upstream producers contributed to the entire Mojave River Basin overdraft. The firm’s clients sought an average flow of 30,000 acre-feet of water to the Barstow area and a writ of mandate to compel the Mojave Water Agency to import supplemental water from the State Water Project.
Thereafter, the Mojave Water Agency served over 1,000 persons with an amended cross‑complaint that joined substantially all water producers within the Mojave River Basin. The cross-complaint asked the court to apportion water rights among the various water producers. The case, involving nearly 400 parties, is one of the most important water rights lawsuits in the past twenty years.
Water Rights Studies – Santa Margarita River System and Sweetwater River
Murphy & Evertz attorneys worked with the Rancho California Water District regarding administration of the Santa Margarita River System, running through Riverside County into San Diego County. He worked on an extensive study evaluating more than sixty years of water rights history in the Santa Margarita River System. The study included an analysis of several adjudications and claims from downstream users, including the United States Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton and the Fallbrook Public Utilities District, together with an analysis of groundwater production, riparian rights, and recapture rights. Murphy & Evertz attorneys also worked extensively with evaluating water rights matters in the Sweetwater River in San Diego County, which involved overlying groundwater rights, and appropriative and riparian rights.
Acquisition of Public Water Facilities
Murphy & Evertz attorneys served as Special and Lead Counsel regarding the acquisition of several water companies. Most notable was representation of the Castaic Lake Water Agency (a state water project contractor) in actions to acquire the Valencia Water Company (2012) and the Santa Clarita Water Company (1999) (both water retailers). Both matters were resolved by way of stipulated judgments in condemnation calling for the payment of $73.8 million in the case of the Valencia Water Company, and $63 million in the case of the Santa Clarita Water Company, pursuant to stock purchase agreements.
Murphy & Evertz attorneys also represented the Tahoe City Public Utility District in actions to acquire the Mid-Sierra Water Utility and the Timberland Water Company. Both matters were resolved in 2017 by entry of stipulated judgments in condemnation.