Adjudicating Groundwater:
A Judge’s Guide to Understanding Groundwater and Modeling

Unique Resource for Groundwater “Judges”
Dividing the Waters offers this groundwater science bench book that cannot be matched by any other scientific or judicial publication.  Adjudicating Groundwater combines the expertise and experience of academic scientists (UC Davis/Stanford), federal scientists (U.S. Geological Survey), and judicial officers to create a resource that can fulfill the needs of judges tackling the most difficult groundwater conflicts.  This bench book explains both the fundamentals of groundwater science (hydrogeology) and groundwater modeling.  The bench book received peer review from scientists and judges, with oversight by the U.S. Geological Survey, making this book among the most reliable resources for judges with water cases.

The last chapter, written by Dividing the Waters’ own Judge Eric Wildman (Idaho), explains how a judge can apply the traditional Daubert factors in assessing the reliability of a groundwater model presented in court.  Wildman has first-hand experience of overseeing the development and then adjudicating a groundwater model for the aquifer providing water Idaho’s fertile Eastern Snake River Plain.  He explains how a judge can ask good questions about a model’s development before making a judgment.  He offers his colleagues judicial checklists, and the book includes a glossary for easy reference.  Gain from Wildman’s experience!

Essential Tool for Non-Science Decisionmakers
Growing number of government officials play some role in the management of the nation’s groundwater aquifers.  They may be water agency or state water officials.  Many do not have the expertise in groundwater science. Adjudicating Groundwater offers those officials insight into how to make their best decisions, as well as an understanding of how a judge who may review their decisions would approach some of these questions on the science of their aquifer.

Critical Time for Groundwater Decisions
Climate change and growing water demands make this a critical time for decisions on how to manage the nation’s groundwater.  In the East, governments have encountered declining groundwater and growing conflicts.  In the West, declining groundwater has led to conflict and significant legal change.  Nevada debates use of isolated, rural aquifers for Las Vegas or conflict between surface water users and groundwater pumpers in the Humboldt River basin.  California’s recent drought led to plummeting groundwater supplies and a new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires new groundwater management plans by 2020.  Adjudicating Groundwater arrives at an auspicious time for helping judicial officers make judgments as to allocation and use of groundwater.

Getting Your Copy

Judges can download a free digital copy of Adjudicating Groundwater by clicking here. Printed copies of Adjudicating Groundwater are available but are in limited supply.  Judges who would like a printed copy should contact Steve Snyder, Executive Director of Dividing the Waters, at

Lawyers and other interested persons can obtain digital copies of Adjudicating Groundwater from the law firms that have provided financial support for the publication of the book.  Those law firms are identified below.

Financial Support

The Water Foundation provided major financial support for publication of Adjudicating Groundwater.  The Water Foundation works with groundwater managers across the West and the nation to improve groundwater management.

The following law firms have provided additional financial support for the publication of Adjudicating Groundwater:

Downey Brand LLP, Sacramento
Contact: (copy of the book) Merry Iseley,, 916-520-5342/ (questions) David Aladjem,, 916-520-5361

Kronick, Moskovitz,Tiedemann & Girard, Sacramento
Contact: Daniel J. O’Hanlon,, (916) 321-4522

Somach Simmons & Dunn, Sacramento
Contact: Ramsey E. Kropf,, (303) 449-2834

Somach Simmons & Dunn, Boulder
Contact: Ramsey E. Kropf,, (303) 449-2834

Barker Rosholt & Simpson LLP
Contact: Albert Barker,, (208) 336-0700

Clyde Snow & Sessions, PC
Contact: Steven E. Clyde, , (801) 322-2516

Cascadia Law Group
Contact: Tom McDonald,, (360) 786-5039

Stoel Rives (Boise, Idaho) also provided funding for the bench book.

About the Authors

Dr. Thomas Harter is the Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair for Water Resources Management and Policy at the University of California, Davis. He holds a joint appointment as Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources and is currently chair of the Hydrologic Sciences Graduate Group. Dr. Harter received his BS and MS in Hydrology from the Universities of Freiburg and Stuttgart, Germany; and his PhD in Hydrology from the University of Arizona.  He is a member of the American Geophysical Union and is serving on the Board of Directors of the Groundwater Resources Association and of the Water Education Foundation. Dr. Harter’s research and extension emphasizes the nexus between groundwater and agriculture. In 2008, Dr. Harter’s research and extension program received the Kevin J. Neese Award in recognition of its efforts to engage scientists, regulators, farm advisors, dairy industry representatives, and dairy farmers to better understand the effects of dairy operations on water quality.

Dr. Tara Moran combines her passion for science with strong communication skills and a strong desire for practical groundwater management solutions. In her role as program lead for Stanford’s Water in the West Sustainable Groundwater program, Dr. Moran identifies research opportunities for improved groundwater management and connects groundwater managers throughout California and the western US with groundwater researchers at Stanford University. She also works with policy makers and other agencies to advance groundwater policy for more sustainable groundwater management.  Dr. Moran has published numerous research papers focusing on water resource management and water isotope thermometry. Tara received her doctorate in Geography from the University of Calgary, Canada. She holds a first-class honors B.Sc. in Environmental Science from the University of Calgary.

Honorable Eric Wildman (Idaho District Court) served as a staff attorney and judge for the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) from 1999 to its completion in 2014.  He currently is adjudicating the water rights in the Coeur D’Alene-Spokane River Basin.  He has served as a “Convener” for the Dividing the Waters Program at The National Judicial College since 2010.  He currently serves not only as Idaho’s water judge, but as the administrative judge for Idaho’s Fifth District Court in Twin Falls.  He received a B.A. from the University of Utah and a J.D. from the University of Idaho.

About the Editors

Alf W. Brandt served as the part-time Executive Director of the Dividing the Waters Program from 2011 until he completed work on the bench book in May 2018.  He serves as Senior Counsel to California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and has responsibility for overseeing the Assembly’s development of water law and policy.  He previously served as a water lawyer at the U.S. Department of the Interior and as a director at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  He received a BA from UCLA and his JD from UC Berkeley.

Dr. Michael Fienen is a Research Hydrologist at the USGS Upper Midwest Water Science Center in Middleton, Wisconsin and an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his PhD in environmental fluid mechanics and hydrology from Stanford University and a BA in Geology from Macalester College. He specializes in providing decision-making support for environmental managers that considers uncertainty in all aspects of decisions and strives to extract the most information from the data.

Dr. Jeremy White started the Adjudicating Groundwater project while he served as a groundwater modeler at the U.S. Geological Survey in Texas.  He now works at GNS Science in New Zealand, where he is a hydrogeologist with a background in computer science.  His research interests include the theory and application of uncertainty quantification techniques to real-world scale environmental modelling analyses and development of software tools to implement these techniques.  Jeremy has experience in a wide variety of environmental modelling analyses including groundwater flow and reactive transport, surface-water hydrologic and hydrodynamic modelling, coupled surface-water/groundwater modelling, and density-dependent and heat-transport modelling.