Water and Wetlands

"Acts on matters across the full range of environmental law, including air and water compliance and enforcement issues."

Chambers USA 2021

Baker Botts advances and protects clients’ water interests through counsel, permitting, regulatory advocacy, and litigation.

Water Quality. Baker Botts environmental lawyers deliver practical and strategic counsel on water quality issues, including:

  • Compliance & Enforcement. We assist clients with the implementation of and compliance with Clean Water Act and state counterparts for wastewater discharges, stormwater, and dredge and fill permitting. We also protect our clients’ interests in federal and state administrative, civil, and criminal enforcement proceedings. Our team includes lawyers with extensive experience as senior federal government officials working on all aspects of water quality and water resources policy matters.
  • Strategic Permitting and Watershed Management. We develop proactive water quality permitting strategies. We assist clients with maintaining federal and state discharge permits for wastewater and stormwater discharges and with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits in federally jurisdictional waters, including navigating related compliance with the Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. We bring deep experience in watershed management strategies, including water quality trading, incorporation of green infrastructure, source water protection, nutrient reduction protocols and regulation of plastics in wastewater discharges. We develop citizen engagement and environmental justice strategies to improve the overall health of watershed communities.
  • Drinking Water. Well versed in regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), our environmental lawyers counsel clients on authorizations for public water systems and underground injection control wells. We also work extensively with clients on responding to the identification of emerging contaminants, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (collectively “PFAS”), in source water or in discharges.
  • Release Prevention and Response. In addition to providing on-the-ground support at oil or hazardous substance spills, we also help clients navigate the consequences of a release from reporting through response actions, natural resource damages, and enforcement under the Clean Water Act, Oil Pollution Act, and other statutes. We also provide counsel regarding preventive regulatory programs, like Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures (SPCC) and Facility Response Plan (FRP). Learn more about our incident and crisis response capabilities.
  • Litigation. Our environmental lawyers defend clients against water-quality related claims brought by citizen suits and others under the Clean Water Act, the SDWA, OPA, and state analogues. Learn more.

Water Resources. Whether in administrative, legislative, or judicial proceedings, Baker Botts environmental lawyers proactively guide our clients through the complexities of water law at the local, state, federal, and international levels.

  • Counseling, Compliance, and Enforcement. We work with clients to assess, develop, and implement water supply strategies, particularly for industrial clients’ and water authorities’ long-term planning, understanding supply stressors such as a changing climate. We also protect our clients’ interests with counsel on compliance and assistance with enforcement proceedings.
  • Strategic permitting. In addition to providing advice and compliance counseling related to the exercise of water rights, we help industrial, water authority, and other clients with necessary water supply permits across a broad range of supply and storage strategies.
  • Transactions. We advise on transactions involving equity investments in water infrastructure and the direct development of water supplies, as well as water project financing and water deal structuring. Learn more.
  • Litigation. Our environmental lawyers assist clients through every level of a water dispute, whether before a local conservation district or state administrative body or through complex litigation in state and federal court. Learn more.

Featured Experience

Water Quality

We assist clients with:

  • Section 404 compliance issues
  • EPA and Coast Guard requirements governing vessel discharges (including under the Vessel General Permit program)
  • Safe Drinking Water Act compliance
  • Watershed permitting strategies
  • Civil litigation, including citizen suit enforcement and consent decree negotiation
  • Clean Water Act NPDES permitting and enforcement matters, including through contested case hearings
  • Civil and criminal state investigation regarding unpermitted discharges into California waters
  • Infrastructure investment planning and execution

Water Resources

On behalf of clients, we have:

  • Opposed new major Texas surface water rights
  • Opposed amendments to Texas surface water rights
  • Opposed issuance of Texas groundwater conservation district permits