One of society's oldest problems is managing water. Today the challenge of water is not only supply, but also state and federal legislation, increasing regulatory control, supply-demand conflicts, emerging technologies and environmental concerns that accompany the fundamental question of water rights. The attorneys of the Duane Morris Water Practice address the intertwined interests of government, business and the community when legal issues involving water emerge.

Our attorneys assist clients in advisory, regulatory and litigation matters involving water, the environment and natural resources. Managing water rights for municipalities, negotiating and contracting with private and governmental water agencies, complying with complex water and environmental laws and competing for limited water resources are examples of the challenges that our clients face.

Duane Morris attorneys draw from their experience serving as members of agencies, committees, commissions and associations effecting change in water legislation and requirements throughout the country. For example, our Water Practice includes a former general counsel to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, who continues to advise city, county and state public utilities on water issues, and is on the board of the nonprofit Water Education Foundation.

Our Water Practice addresses the water rights and supply needs of major municipalities. Duane Morris has negotiated contracts with the federal government, assisted in the perfection of water transfers to meet dry-year needs, assisted with preparation of environmental documentation and drafted state and federal legislation to help municipalities acquire a reliable supply of water. When necessary, we defend municipalities' water rights and advise them regarding water strategies and relations with their neighboring water agencies.

With Duane Morris' broad capabilities, the Water Practice works closely with the lawyers in our Environmental, Natural Resources, Trial and Real Estate practices when our clients' complex legal and business issues require a multidisciplinary approach.

Representative Matters

  • Litigated and then negotiated on behalf of the Merced Irrigation District a settlement of a major water litigation case in California against a downstream water user who was claiming a perpetual right to water.
  • Representation of large carrot processor in connection with discharge of waste water and notices of violation from California Regional Water Quality Control Board, and eventual litigation against Regional Board and State Water Board.
  • Representing a city in a dispute with two local water storage districts over plans to create a nearby groundwater bank.
  • Advising the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) regarding the renegotiation of the long-term water supply contracts with the customers of the California State Water Project (CSWP), which provides in excess of 2,000,000 acre-feet of water per year to over 25 million Californians, 750,000 acres of agriculture, and generates about 6.5 million megawatts of hydroelectric power per year.
  • Counseled energy company in connection with negotiation with EPA to resolve allegations of waste water violations from underwater pipeline in Gulf of Mexico.
  • Represented a California Water District in negotiating an O & M agreement between the client and another California Water District regarding operation and maintenance of large-scale water facilities, including compliance with GASB.
  • Represented a city in California in negotiating a "good neighbor" agreement, which included criteria relating to maintenance of the water system, between the city and a refinery for water service.
  • Obtained on behalf of a wastewater system a no damages paid settlement.
  • Representation of rancher regarding water rights in contested proceedings before the California State Water Resources Control Board.
  • Representation of public entities before regional water quality control boards (RWQCBs) regarding groundwater and surface water pollution/discharges.
  • Representation of real estate developers on water transfers, California Environmental Quality Act and water supply assessment matters.
  • Represented a global engineering and construction company in lawsuit arising from remediation efforts of a roadway slope that resulted in the release of fly ash materials into the neighborhood stream and water channel.
  • Appearing in numerous water-utility rate cases before state and city regulatory bodies addressing ratemaking issues, including revenue requirements, rate of return, rate design and long-term plant and water supply issues.
  • Represented a developer in a lawsuit against the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control ("DNREC") to preclude it from imposing a requirement that any new major land development in Sussex County include a 100-foot riparian buffer area. Obtained decision from the Delaware Superior Court that the requirement constituted a de facto zoning regulation, and that DNREC lacked the authority to employ land-use zoning to safeguard water quality. The decision was later affirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court.
  • Represented a former landowner in a federal environmental cost-recovery action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) involving polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contamination of soil and groundwater.
  • Represented a California city in a complex federal environmental cost-recovery action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) involving groundwater contamination, as well as a related environmental insurance coverage action in state court.
  • Represented water agencies regarding compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
  • Represented water agencies regarding California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) litigation.
  • Represented a city regarding pre-1914 water rights and applications to appropriate water.
  • Represented Fortune 100 consumer products company in New Jersey and Puerto Rico, settling government enforcement actions alleging thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act. In each instance, penalty assessments were reduced from tens of millions to less than $500,000.
  • Litigation on behalf of water agency regarding ongoing Bay-Delta matters, SWP financial obligations and SWRCB proceedings.
  • Successfully arbitrated contract dispute on behalf of water agency against its partner under Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement.
  • Representation of wastewater system operator regarding compliance with contractual obligations to municipality.
  • Representation of state water contractor interests regarding issues pertaining to the SWP contracts and related state legislation.
  • Representation of municipal and industrial (M&I) and agricultural water agencies regarding Bay-Delta matters.

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"In my discussions with Duane Morris leaders, they frequently speak about how diversity within their firm has enabled them to better serve their diverse clients. They understand that investing in diversity is a wise business decision that positions them for the marketplace of the future."

Don Liu
Senior VP, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary
Xerox Corporation

At Duane Morris, achieving diversity is paradoxical. By supporting and celebrating the differences of our attorneys - and the individual strengths that they bring - our firm culture expands, fostering creative solutions for our clients. But diversity at Duane Morris does not mean that we have a certain number of diverse attorneys; true diversity means that it is no longer noteworthy to see diverse lawyers leading our practice groups or managing client relationships. Ascending to positions of leadership and greater responsibility and providing the highest levels of client service is simply what is expected of all our lawyers. Diversity is another strong asset that adds to our collective abilities to meet the needs of our clients.

Our vision of diversity at Duane Morris is to realize an environment in which our lawyers' outstanding qualities are not just measured by ethnicity, race, gender and sexual orientation, but more importantly, that our lawyers are remarkable as excellent attorneys above all else. Only then can we celebrate our differences while focusing on the common pursuit of legal excellence which everyone shares at Duane Morris.

To reach this goal, Duane Morris understands that the familiar diversity strategies and policies that most law firms have are needed. Without demanding results from such policies, most law firms are bound to fail in even achieving numerical hiring and retention goals. Duane Morris has been proactive and ambitious in its efforts to improve diversity at the firm, and has set deadlines for reaching the milestones which mark our progress. To create a more diverse law firm, Duane Morris is:

  • Committed to strategically increasing our diversity levels, which is currently at 10 percent.
  • Bringing together our Diversity Committee and our Hiring and Retention Committee to raise diversity as an important factor in our hiring decisions.
  • Dedicated to improving retention by building upon our monitoring and mentoring program for all diverse associates.

Combining new initiatives with our longstanding diversity efforts, Duane Morris has seen increasingly positive results. In the Minority Law Journal's annual diversity survey of the nation's largest 260 firms, Duane Morris continued to improve its regional and national ranking, rising to number 136 of all firms surveyed. Our strides in Philadelphia are encouraging; in a city known for both the racial diversity of its population and the lack thereof in its law firms, Duane Morris is one of only two law firms to exceed the national average of minority partners at all law firms. Additionally, Duane Morris leads all national law firms based in Philadelphia in the number of Latino partners. Nearly 30 percent of all of our attorneys are women, and more than 20 percent of our partners are women.

In our approach to diversity, progress in racial, gender and cultural diversity cannot be measured in numbers alone. Duane Morris has focused our diversity initiatives on both increasing the number of diverse associates and addressing the challenges diverse attorneys face in building lasting careers and rising to senior and leadership positions. While several of our key practice groups are led by diverse partners and female partners, Duane Morris endeavors to create a culture which will foster a deep pool of such attorneys who can then develop into the firm's future leaders. Duane Morris understands that simply hiring diverse associates will not change the diversity of the firm; Duane Morris is working to mentor and retain diverse associates so that our progress in racial, gender and cultural diversity is also reflected at the highest levels of leadership within the firm.

Our progress on gender diversity has been profound. We have no glass ceilings: women hold positions of leadership at all levels of management at the firm. Women lead a number of our key practice groups, including our Energy, Immigration and International practices, and serve on the firm's Executive Committee. The success of our female attorneys at Duane Morris has not gone unnoticed. Barbara Adams was chair of the firm's Finance Practice until her appointment by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell to serve as General Counsel of the Commonwealth. In 2004, our longtime General Counsel, Gene E.K. Pratter, was approved by the United States Senate and is now a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Our efforts to improve diversity extend beyond our firm's walls. The chair of our Diversity Committee, Nolan N. Atkinson, Jr., recognized the lack of diversity in Philadelphia's legal community and formed the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group. Nolan now serves as the chair of the organization, a consortium of 25 law firms and corporations that commits to employing at least one diverse first-year law student each as a summer associate. From this program, law students of diverse backgrounds gain access to what was once an exclusive legal community, and now have the opportunity to learn and develop their legal careers with experience at Philadelphia's top law firms.

In addition to our involvement in the Philadelphia area, Duane Morris has increased our presence at national conferences and events focused on diversity. We sponsor the Hispanic National Bar Association and its job fair. Duane Morris is also a longtime supporter and sponsor of the Equality Forum, a national gay and lesbian rights organization. Duane Morris continues to sponsor the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, and is active in other associations of diverse attorneys including: the Asian American Bar Association of the Delaware Valley; the Charles Houston Bar Association; Cuban Bar Association; Korean American Lawyers Association; National American Indian Housing Counsel and the National Bar Association.

The challenge of improving gender, ethnic and cultural diversity at Duane Morris is an ongoing effort that has the support of the entire firm. Duane Morris has been at the vanguard in supporting gender diversity throughout the firm beginning a generation ago. Our diversity programs are leading to similar success in improving racial and national origin diversity at Duane Morris. But even as we share these examples of Duane Morris attorneys and our involvement in numerous legal events, associations and programs for diversity, our hope is that such examples will no longer be necessary to mention in the future. We hope that through our efforts, and the efforts of other law firms, these stories become so common that they are no longer the remarkable accomplishments they are today, but simply routine aspects of the legal world tomorrow.