Wes Miliband is an environmental lawyer focused on water resources and driven by passion for the subject matter with a proven track record of success and creativity on behalf of private and public interests throughout California. Wes focuses on securing and protecting water rights and water supplies including assistance with water transfers as well as the infrastructure necessary to treat, store and deliver water. Clients often seek Wes’s input about legislative and policy matters, in addition to his legal and regulatory expertise. His practice lends itself to related environmental issues involving water quality impacts to surface water and groundwater supplies, regulatory permitting, and environmental compliance with federal and state requirements including the California Environmental Quality Act. With unique cross training as advisory, transactional and trial counsel, and having represented individuals and public and private entities, Wes provides clients with highly-sophisticated strategic approaches for effectively resolving challenging circumstances and disputes that result in environmental litigation.
Prior to joining AALRR, Wes led the California water practice for a national law firm. Wes started his legal career as a Deputy District Attorney in Orange County, where he prosecuted twenty jury trials and several more before the court. As a law student, he clerked for Judge Gerald G. Johnston of the Orange County Superior Court. Prior to law school, Wes was on staff for a Member of Congress.
Wes enjoys various outdoor activities involving the ocean, lakes, rivers, and mountains, allowing enhanced appreciation of the environment and natural resources.
Water Rights and Water Resources
- Special Counsel to the City of Sacramento for water-related and environmental compliance matters.
- General Counsel to the Modesto Irrigation District and Diablo Water District.
- Lead counsel for the Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority in the first lawsuit filed under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
- Special water rights counsel for a federally-recognized Native American Indian Tribe.
- Lead counsel for a municipality to protect its pre-1914 appropriative right and 19th century right-of-way in surrender proceedings pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and to obtain a Special Use Permit from the United States Forest Service, including CEQA compliance.
- Lead counsel for an agricultural entity in a CEQA writ proceeding and subsequent appeal involving issuance of a groundwater well permit being a “ministerial” or “discretionary” action by the issuing public agency.
- Lead trial and litigation counsel on several matters involving water rights and water supply issues including service as lead trial counsel through several phases of trial for a public water supplier with unique factual and legal issues in California’s largest groundwater adjudication commonly referred to as the Antelope Valley Groundwater Cases.
- Lead counsel in acquiring and protecting water rights and water systems and effectuating transfers of groundwater and surface water rights and water supplies, both in transactional matters and contested matters pending in state courts and administrative forums including the State Water Resources Control Board.
- Negotiating and enforcing water supply agreements including with “physical solutions” to better ensure long-term reliability through groundwater basin management.
- Advising public and private stakeholders on compliance with and strategies related to implementation of SGMA, including formation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) and Alternatives to GSPs.
- Special Counsel to private landowners and entities including energy and mining companies, agribusiness and vineyards, land developers, cemeteries and mutual water companies seeking to preserve and enhance water rights and long-term water supplies, including recycled water supplies.
- Defended successfully as lead counsel a municipality to protect its pre-1914 appropriative right and its superiority to a water right claim arising from an artificial, concrete-lined water conveyance system.
- Assisted a water district to manage local groundwater supplies on behalf of landowners, most of whom produce groundwater for irrigation uses and are riparian and pre-1914 appropriative water rights holders.
- Represented a municipality in the determination of overlying rights and protection of appropriative rights while also defending against a “takings” or inverse condemnation claim.
- Represented a private mortuary in California Court of Appeal and Supreme Court proceedings regarding groundwater storage rights, with Petition for Review granted and later dismissed.
- General Counsel (former) to a municipal water district that reserves latent powers while actively protecting and managing surface water and groundwater rights and quality for the district's residents and agricultural growers, including implementation of an AB 3030 groundwater management plan.
Water Quality and Natural Habitat
- Assists regional efforts with regulatory approvals for implementing river flow management measures designed to preserve and enhance fishery habitats.
- Lead counsel for one of the nation’s largest food producers including assistance to defend against Regional Board enforcement actions seeking a cease-and-desist order and administrative civil liability for alleged violations of Waste Discharge Requirements (WDRs).
- Lead counsel for private clients engaging in voluntary clean-up and remediation efforts involving federal, state and local regulatory agencies.
- Advisor to public and private clients regarding National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.
- Former pro bono counsel to a southern California wetlands conservancy.
- Represented a municipality in the adjudication of surface water and groundwater supplies in which significant water quality contamination from perchlorate and VOCs dictate water supply use and long-term water resources management.
- Represented the League of California Cities as amicus party in a challenge by various Los Angeles County cities against the State Water Resources Control Board involving Basin Plan standards for stormwater quality control and related water quality standards.
- Represented several Los Angeles County cities in a challenge against the Regional Water Quality Control Board and State Water Resources Control Board regarding numeric limit standards for water quality standards (TMDLs) arising from NPDES permits.
Water Infrastructure and Finance
- Advising and negotiating agreements for sale or acquisition of recycled water supplies and related infrastructure.
- Advising on and advocating for grant awards from the California Department of Water Resources for water supply projects.
- Advising on legal and regulatory requirements for rate setting under Proposition 218 for public agencies and the California Public Utilities Commission for investor-owned utilities.
- Represented municipalities in transactional matters for repairs and construction of water conveyance systems, including drafting of operation and maintenance agreements.
- Represented a municipal water district in contested administrative proceedings before San Diego LAFCO regarding detachment/deannexation fees for groundwater management under the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Act.
- Assisted a municipal water district by drafting special legislation for a water availability charge compliant with Proposition 218, obtaining sponsorship for the bill, and guiding the client through the legislative process for the bill to become law.
- General Counsel (former) to a county water district serving approximately 25,000 people, often involving infrastructure projects and adept knowledge of California’s transparency rules known as the California Public Records Act, the Brown Act, and the Political Reform Act.
News & Publications
Events & Speaking Engagements
- Presenter, "Update on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act," Association of Environmental Professionals, Nov. 2017
- Presenter, "Recent SGMA Developments: What’s Next to Keep the Wells from Running Dry?," Sacramento County Bar Association, Environmental Law Section, Sept. 2017
- Presenter, Sustainable Groundwater Management Act - Part 3: Navigating Upcoming Deadlines for Statewide Formation of GSAs and GSPs, Stoel Rives webinar, March 2017
- Presenter, "Climate Change Impacts to Groundwater - Especially as They Relate to SGMA," Annual AGWA/AGWT - California Groundwater Conference, Feb. 2017
- Presenter, "Securing Adequate Water Supplies for Your Project," North State BIA Forward Planning Seminar, Sacramento, California, Feb. 2017
- "Regulating Groundwater in California: How the Landscape Is Changing with SGMA," Environmental Law News, Fall 2016
- Presenter, "Developing a Central Valley Water Supply – Challenges and Developments," CLE International – 24th Annual California Water Law Conference, New Regulations: The Legal vs. The Practical, Nov. 15, 2016
- Co-Presenter, "How California's New Groundwater Management Rules Might Impact Your Business", Sacramento Petroleum Association Lunch Meeting, Aug. 17, 2016
- Presenter, "The Future of Agriculture in a Changing World with Less Water and More Regulations, Toward Sustainable Groundwater in Agriculture: Second International Conference Linking Science and Policy, San Francisco, CA, June 30, 2016
- Presenter, "What Do All These New DWR Regulations Mean?" Argent Communication's 31st California Water Law & Policy Conference, San Francisco, CA, June 14, 2016
- Presenter, "Creating New Water Supplies to Exceed Tomorrow's Water Demands," Bloomberg BNA Webinar, May 19, 2016
- Co-Presenter, "Why California’s New Groundwater Management Law is a Game Changer for Mine Operators," Stoel Rives Mining Law Webinar, April 26, 2016
- Co-Presenter, "SGMA and an Adaptive Groundwater Management Case Study," Association of Environmental Professionals Conference, San Diego, CA, April 4, 2016
- Presenter, "Tapping ‘New’ Water: How Recycled Water Can Help Quench the State’s Thirst," 26th Annual International Conference on Soil, Water, Energy, & Air, San Diego, CA, March 22, 2016
- Presenter, "Overcoming Legal and Regulatory Hurdles for Maximizing Water Resources with Reuse Projects," WateReuse California Annual Conference, Santa Rosa, CA, March 13, 2016
- Presenter, “What New Regulations to Modify Basin Boundaries Mean for You & Update on Statewide GSA Formation,” Stoel Rives Water Law Webinar, Feb. 10, 2016
- Panelist, “Water-Energy Nexus and the New Normal,” California Water Law Symposium, Sacramento, CA, Jan. 23, 2016
- "Navigating Rough Waters—Challenges in California to Securing and Maintaining Long-Term Supplies, " ABA SEER Water Resources Committee Newsletter, Jan. 2016
- Presenter, “Success Stories in Water Infrastructure Finance,” Symposium on Water & Long-Term Value, San Francisco, CA, Dec. 14, 2015
- "Regulating Groundwater in California: Will Groundwater Sustainability Agencies Change the Landscape?" Environmental Law Reporter, Dec. 2015
- Moderator, Southern California David Keith Todd Lecturer Session, Groundwater Resources Association Annual Meeting, Sacramento, California, Oct. 2015
- Presenter, "Maintaining Water Supplies During the Ebbs and Flows of California Water, " West LegalEdcenter Webinar, Sept. 23, 2015
- Presenter, "How Changes to Basin Boundaries Intersect with GSA Formation, “Stoel Rives Water Law Webinar, Aug. 25, 2015
- Co-Presenter, "Surface Water Diversions Under F&G Code Section 1602 – The Landscape has Changed," Stoel Rives Water Law Webinar, July 28, 2015
- Presenter, ACWA Regulatory Summit, Lake Tahoe, California, Aug. 2014
- Presenter, WateReuse Research Foundation’s Annual Conference, Phoenix, Arizona, May 2013
Alerts & Articles
- United States Supreme Court Adopts a “Functional Equivalent” Standard for Discharge of Pollutants to Groundwater04.29.2020
- California Executive Order N-42-20 Places Moratorium on Water System Service Shut Offs During the COVID-19 Pandemic04.09.2020
- California Water Law & Policy Reporter, 07.03.2019
- California Supreme Court Allows Proposition 218 Challenge Without The Challenger Attending The Local Agency’s Rate Increase Hearing06.11.2019
- California State Water Board Adopts ‘State Wetland Definition’ and ‘Procedures for Dischargers of Dredge or Fill Material’California Water Law & Policy Reporter, 05.13.2019
- California Water Law & Policy Reporter, 09.16.2018
- California Water Law & Policy Reporter, 03.01.2018
- How Department of the Interior Modification of Gold Butte National Monument In Nevada Implicates Water RightsCalifornia Water Law & Policy Reporter, 01.09.2018
- Regular contributor to blogs, with journalists and reporters from various legal and industry publications nationwide seeking insight from Wes on California’s hottest water topics
- Contributing author of American Bar Association’s Environmental Law treatise, Fall 2017 re U.S.-Mexico water relations on the Colorado River and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects
- "Local Water Traversing Forest Service Lands: What’s Mine is not Yours!," Western Water Law & Policy Reporter, Oct. 2017
- "Agricultural Water Users Weathering California’s Regulatory Storms" Western FarmPress, November 22, 2016
Community & Professional
- American Bar Association, Environment, Energy and Resources Section, Member of Water Resources Committee
- Association of California Water Agencies, Legal Affairs Committee Member
- Groundwater Resources Association of California, Member and Co-Chair of Education Committee
- State Bar of California, Litigation and Environmental Law Sections, Member
- California League of Food Producers, Water Resources Committee, Member
- Western Water Law and Policy Reporter, Editorial Board and Monthly Article Contributor
- Supporter of first responder, military and veteran organizations and fundraising events
- Adjunct Professor, Santa Clara University
- Mentor and student resource, Chapman University Fowler School of Law, UC Davis School of Law and McGeorge School of Law