Client Successes Jul 14, 2016

Appellate Court Again Sides with BB&K Client in Groundwater Rights Dispute

City of Santa Maria’s Groundwater Rights Upheld

On behalf of the City of Santa Maria, Best Best & Krieger LLP Managing Partner Eric Garner and Partner Jeffrey Dunn secured an appellate victory in a long-running groundwater rights dispute. In an opinion certified for publication by the Sixth District Court of Appeal, handed down June 24, 2016, the court held that a lower court was correct to quiet title to a groundwater basin for a group of landowners.

The landowners unsuccessfully asserted that, for the trial court to quiet title, it must have quantified the proportionate prescriptive right to the pumped groundwater as to each property owner. The Appellate Court rejected the argument, finding that the quantification was unnecessary at the time of judgment — as the basin was not in overdraft. However, should there be future periods of overdraft, then the court could consider a quantification of each landowner’s groundwater right.

The opinion follows a 2012 published opinion that upheld the City’s prescriptive right to groundwater and court-imposed groundwater management plan by the City of Santa Maria and other groundwater users. The two decisions provide guidance to California courts as to how to allocate increasingly scarce groundwater supplies. 

The case is City of Santa Maria et al v. Richard E. Adam, H041133

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