Slater, Scott S.

Legendary water law practitioner with nearly 40 years of experience. Unmatched depth and diversity of water transactions. Handled the largest water transfer in United States’ history.

Scott Slater is a best-in-class water rights transactional attorney and litigator delivering strategic solutions and securing reliable water supplies for his clients. His sophisticated understanding of both the legal challenges and potential business impacts and opportunities in securing, maintaining and transferring water resources draws from his decades of experience. Handling some of the nation’s most complex and cutting-edge water deals, Scott is respected for his inability to maintain the status quo. Scott is a creative problem solver who thrives in complicated matters requiring innovative solutions. Whether helping guide private companies to serve as public stewards of their water resources or representing public agencies serving the resource needs of their constituents, Scott’s ingenuity often shifts the paradigm from win-lose to non-zero sum outcomes.

While maintaining his shareholder position at Brownstein, Scott also serves as CEO and President for Cadiz Inc., a publicly traded sustainable land, water and agricultural resources company with projects including the Cadiz Water Project and a vertically integrated commercial hemp operation. 

Scott’s famed understanding of water law, especially in water scarce areas, has led him to play an integral role in shaping both national and international water code. He is the author of the treatise—California Water Law and Policy—frequently cited by judges and attorneys. Scott previously taught and advised government on reforming water policy in Western Australia, the Peoples Republic of China and is currently advising the nation of Tunisia.

Practices & Industries
Infrastructure

Scott is best known for his capacity to creatively solve complex problems and overcome obstacles in project implementation.  Examples of his work include:   

  • Cadiz Project. Project architect, manager, negotiator and implementer for all aspects of Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, a water supply infrastructure project in Southern California. This public-private partnership is designed to put 50,000 acre-feet per to beneficial use annually by conserving water presently lost to evaporation from dry lakes and delivering it to the Colorado River Aqueduct via a 43-mile pipeline without causing a single adverse environmental impact. The Project was validated by 12 trial and appellate court opinions.  A subsequent project phase will include the importation and banking of surplus water in a groundwater bank and contributing to California’s effort to overcome its present storage deficit.   
  • San Diego County Water Authority. Special counsel with ongoing responsibility for negotiating agreements to implement the Quantification Settlement Agreement and the Colorado River Delivery Agreement.  The lead negotiator in the multi-billion dollar SDCWA acquisition of 277,000 acre-feet of conserved water from the IID, the largest water transfer in United States history. 
  • Chino Basin Desalter.  Facilitator and mediator in the formation of the Chino Basin Desalter Authority and $350 million water supply contracts.
  • Chino Basin Optimum Basin Management Plan. Continuing representation of court-appointed watermaster with responsibility for managing groundwater resources within 225-mile watershed in the Inland Empire of Southern California.  Watermaster manages the extraction, transfer and storage of approximately 200,000 acre-feet of water annually, implementation of recharge master plan and distribution of recycled water.  Infrastructure investments over the past decade benefit more than one million people, and exceed $1 billion.
  • Service Area Expansion. Golden State Water Company. Representing Golden State Water Company for development of a new water utility service area in Sutter County, California, including water resource and infrastructure planning, negotiation of water supply agreements, and acquisition of certificate of public convenience and necessity from the California Public Utilities Commission.
  • Storage.  Negotiation of agreement to use the Upper American River Project for 20,000 acre-feet of surface water storage capacity for the benefit of the El Dorado Water and Power Authority.
  • Pipelines:
  • Water Supply Agreement for the Delivery of Water Through the Hueneme Pipeline. Lead negotiator for the City of Oxnard in acquiring a 40-year water supply from the United Water Conservation District in Ventura County.
  • Water Wheeling Agreement: City of Oxnard and Ocean View Municipal Water District (1993).  Representation of facilities owner in obtaining fair compensation for the use of available pipeline capacity and development of supporting agreements.
Water Transactions

Scott’s significant, recent water transactions include:

  • Facilitator, negotiator and draftsman of a complex set of court approved agreements that will effectuate a novel groundwater management strategy in the Southern California Inland Empire. The agreements will allow for the harvesting of 400,000 acre-feet of groundwater and 10 mgd of expanded desalting capacity to dramatically curtail outflow to the Santa Ana River.
  • Capped nearly a decade of effort by negotiating agreements for the largest water transfer in United States history. Served as special counsel to implement the Quantification Settlement Agreement and the Colorado River Delivery Agreement and lead negotiator in the multi-billion dollar SDCWA acquisition of 277,000 acre-feet of conserved water from the IID.  Continues to lead SDCWA’s negotiation efforts in implementing subsequent agreements presently valued in excess of $100 million.
  • Completed negotiations for an agreement for the joint use of the Upper American River Project (UARP) for the benefit of El Dorado County, an area of origin community at the headwaters of the American River.
  • Lead negotiator of a $1 billion 30-year Colorado River Water exchange agreement for the San Diego County Water Authority. 
  • Negotiated 30-year wastewater agreement for the City of Beverly Hills, City of Burbank and Universal Studios with the City of Los Angeles for use of the largest wastewater facility in the Western United States.
  • Counsel of record for the City of Santa Paula in the $18 million acquisition of Santa Paula Water Works, the utility retail water purveyor to residents within the City of Santa Paula and the surrounding unincorporated area.
Representative Matters
  • Special water counsel for private equity firm One Rock Capital in connection with the completion of due diligence in support of the agreements to acquire Nestle Waters North America, the world’s largest bottled water company for over $4 billion. Brownstein water counsel led due diligence efforts on water assets, water rights, water supplies and offered industry and supply risk assessments for Nestlé Waters North America’s U.S. business, including regional spring water brands, production facilities and infrastructure related to the water business.

  • Negotiator of groundwater adjudication amendments to establish groundwater storage procedures in the Central and West Coast Basins to provide local water supplies to the millions of people living and working in the greater Los Angeles region. These amendments were sustained in (Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary v. Golden State Water Co. (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 658 (review denied); Water Replenishment Dist. of Southern Cal. v. City of Cerritos (2012) 202 Cal.App.4th 1063 (review denied).)

  • Represented two private equity firms in successful bid for and acquisition of SouthWest Water Company (SWWC), a publicly-traded, investor-owned water utility with operations in several states in the western and southeastern United States. Brownstein attorneys provided strategic advice, performed due diligence, assisted with the merger and acquisition, and acquired regulatory approvals for the transaction from state public utility commissions. This is the first successful public-to-private conversion of a water company in the past decade, and SWWC was one of only 13 publicly-traded companies in the United States. The transaction matter was nominated for Water Deal of the Year at the Global Water Awards held in Berlin as part of the 2011 Global Water Summit.

  • Brownstein successfully negotiated a complex, multi-agency settlement of a water rights complaint alleging violations of the public trust and California Fish and Game Code section 5937, on behalf of one of California's largest wholesale water providers. The settlement provides a perpetual, multimillion-dollar program for the re-operation of numerous dams and associated water supply facilities on three watersheds, including flow enhancements, barrier removals and habitat restoration. Brownstein continues to provide legal support associated with obtaining all regulatory approvals of the settlement and its implementation.

  • Representing Golden State Water Company for development of a new water utility service area in Sutter County, California, including water resource and infrastructure planning, negotiation of water supply agreements, and acquisition of certificate of public convenience and necessity from the California Public Utilities Commission.

  • Prosecute water right applications with the State Water Resources Control Board for supplemental water to meet general plan needs.

  • Negotiated an agreement for the joint use of the Upper American River Project ("UARP") for the benefit of El Dorado County, an area of origin community at the headwaters of the American River. The agreement provided access to the UARP and the right to divert and store up to 40,000 acre-feet of water annually.

  • As general counsel to the Chino Basin Watermaster, facilitated, negotiated and drafted agreements among parties to the judgment to implement the Optimum Basin Management Program. Represented the parties and watermaster before the court in securing approval of basin management strategy to secure hydraulic control through a coordinated groundwater extraction plan and desalting.

  • On behalf of San Diego County Water Authority, negotiated a series of complex agreements between state and federal agencies for the settlement of disputes related to California allocation of Colorado River water, including the largest water transfer in United States history, lining of the All-American Canal and water conveyance.

News & Events
Community

President and Board Member, Santa Barbara Youth Ensemble Theatre, Inc.

Publications & Presentations
Education
  • J.D., 1984, with distinction, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, Order of the Coif
  • B.A., 1980, with distinction, University of Redlands
Admissions
  • California, 1984
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
Recognition

Who's Who in Professional Services, Pacific Coast Business Times, 2014-2017

Top 100 Lawyers in California, Los Angeles Daily Journal, 2014

Martindale Hubble Av – Preeminent ranking, 1997-2017

Best Lawyers in America, 2010-2021

Chambers USA, 2012-2020

Los Angeles Water Law Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers, 2014

Membership

Board of Directors, Executive Committee, Limoneira Company, 2012 - Present

Board of Directors, Cadiz Inc., 2011 - Present, President and CEO, 2013 - Present

Board of Advisors, Private Equity Investment in Global Water Industry, Water Asset Management, 2007-2017

Former Board Member and Chair, American Ground Water Trust, 2000-2009

Chair, Natural Resources Subsection of the Real Property Law Section, State Bar of California, 2001-2004

Board Member, Chair Legislative Committee, California Groundwater Resources Association, 1999-2003

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