White Paper

Ninth Circuit Holds that Federal Reserved Water Rights Extend to Groundwater


Quantification of federal reserved water rights is always a complex and fact-intensive process.

Recently the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in a case in which the Court unequivocally held that under the well-established “Winters doctrine,” federal reserved water rights for an Indian reservation extend to groundwater when access to groundwater is necessary to fulfill the primary purpose of the reservation.  Despite noting that it was “unable to find controlling federal appellate authority explicitly holding that the Winters doctrine applies to groundwater,” the Court concluded that it does.  



L William Staudenmaier

Snell & Wilmer L.L.P.

Shareholder with Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite, P.A.

Practices in water, natural resources and environmental law

Focuses in acquiring and protecting water rights for a broad range of clients, including industrial, agricultural and municipal water users

Law degree, magna cum laude, University of Michigan Law School

B.S. degree in forestry and soil science, University of Wisconsin

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