Water & Environmental Law

Water Law in California

Water Law in California: How Earning an Advanced Degree Can Help Your Career

Water Law in California

As California continues to grow, water rights continue to play an important, though often controversial, role in shaping its future. According to the Water Education Foundation, California’s growth has closely paralleled an evolving and complex system of water rights. So where do we go from here?

For some context, California has two kinds of water rights. First, there are the older riparian rights – water rights laws based on ownership of land bordering a waterway. Clashing with these are appropriative rights, a practice that allows for water use based on physical control and beneficial use of the water without regard to the relationship of land to water. 

Further complicating matters is the California Constitution, requiring that all water use be both “reasonable and beneficial” according to the State Supreme Court, though reasonableness is determined by the circumstances and “varies as the current situation changes.” Meanwhile, the federal government can get involved when water quality issues arise, which may affect allocation. Clearly, there are a lot of factors at play. 

The State of California’s Water

Speaking of water quality, this past October marked the 50th anniversary of Congress passing the Clean Water Act. The White House released a proclamation stating that before this landmark legislation, America’s waters were in crisis, often flooded and even on fire with toxic pollution and cancer-causing contaminants. But while it’s true that five decades later, our nation’s waters are dramatically cleaner, there’s a lot left to be done.

As noted by the LA Times, in California and much of the West, less ample and therefore slower moving water paired with increasingly hotter temperatures promotes the growth of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria. These can release toxins that in turn make sloughs and ponds poisonous to people who fish in or drink from them. Earlier this year, for example, the state found that nearly 1 million Californians drink tainted water

In 50 years, the amount of climate, political, and social change has wreaked havoc on the landscape. It’s quite clear that they’re correct to invoke an update from our nation’s leaders. In the meantime, it’s critical for qualified legal professionals to step up and step in where it counts. When such looming issues face the state, careers and jobs related to California water law are very likely to be on the rise.

McGeorge’s Programs Tackle Water Law in California

If you’re interested in entering this critical field at a particularly opportune moment, the best way to do so is by bolstering your education. McGeorge’s world-class Water & Environmental Law program is the foundation for its successful online MSL and LLM programs in Water & Environmental Law. This master’s degree provides the opportunity to learn from McGeorge’s distinguished faculty and program team in addition to panels of experts who focused on water and environmental law and the changing policies surrounding both.

The courses are taught by expert faculty who are chosen for outstanding teaching as well as depth of knowledge in water and environmental law. They emphasize the development of real-world knowledge and practical skills. The perfect example is the dedicated McGeorge School of Law Professor Jennifer Harder, who recently spent 1.5 years collaborating with a group of esteemed water experts on the development of recommendations for reforming California water. Professor Harder also serves as co-director of McGeorge’s Water & Environmental Law Concentration and as the Faculty Director for Online Learning, so she and other groundbreaking leaders are actively involved in advancing the field– and your education.

With courses like Water Resources Law, students gain practical understanding of water allocation and use in contemporary society, and critically examine the social policies that govern water management. Later on, the more advanced Water and Environmental Justice course explores challenges and opportunities in providing a healthy environment and safe, affordable, accessible, and reliable water supplies to all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, national origin, and education level. These are just two of the classes in a standout curriculum designed to give graduates an education both expansive and in-depth.

An MSL or LLM Degree Can Elevate Your Career in Water

The MSL degree is a part-time, fully online, 26-unit degree program with asynchronous lectures. Students interact with their professors and classmates weekly through discussion boards throughout the program, have opportunities to work on projects with classmates, and meet with professors virtually in flexible office hours. Typically, the coursework is spread over two years, but feel free to contact the Assistant Dean for Graduate and Online Programs to personalize your degree to your optimal benefit.

Our online MSL and LLM programs for Water and Environmental Law prepare professionals like you to tackle this issue head-on within industry leadership roles. These degrees provide value to land use planners, engineers, environmental consultants, public information officers, lobbyists, public agency and legislative staff, and others who seek expertise in this continually-evolving field without earning a law degree. Our online degrees are the practical solution to a career search that’s looking to affect real environmental change in a positive way.

Earth Day with Kim Delfino

McGeorge Celebrates Earth Day with Kim Delfino

Earth Day with Kim DelfinoEarth Day is an annual event that focuses on environmental issues. April 22, 2022 marked the observance of the 52nd Earth Day. This day challenges people and governments to establish protocols to improve the earth by reducing human impact. The Earth Day theme for 2022 was “Invest in Our Planet.”

Kim Delfino, an adjunct professor at McGeorge School of Law and the President and Founder of Earth Advocacy, spoke with Clémence Kucera, the Assistant Dean for Graduate, Online, and International Programs, for an Earth Day webinar. Their conversation highlighted ways that McGeorge’s online MSL degrees in Water and Environmental Law and Government Law and Policy can contribute to making tomorrow a better place.

About Professor Kim Delfino

Professor Delfino is a 1993 graduate of McGeorge School of Law. She began her practice as an attorney in Washington, D.C. at Meyer & Glitzenstein. For almost four years, she represented environmental organizations focusing on the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Clean Water Act. She then moved away from litigation and worked with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) as their conservation advocate.

After several years, Professor Delfino returned to California and worked as the program director for the California office of Defenders of Wildlife. She later started her own advocacy firm, Earth Advocacy, where she is a consultant for nonprofit environmental organizations and foundations. She represents organizations in the state legislature and helps foundations with strategy and policy over the long term.

Environmental Careers That Do Not Require a JD

Although Professor Delfino started her law practice in litigation, she emphasized that the work she is currently doing does not require a Juris Doctor degree (JD). However, this does not mean that knowledge of the law is unimportant or unhelpful – quite the opposite is true. There are several career paths in environmental work that do not require a JD, but absolutely benefit from having a legal background. For example, Professor Delfino’s legal knowledge helps her write laws (statutes) that she then seeks to have enacted by working with the legislature. Her legal knowledge also helps her understand how laws and policies come together in practice. 

Some careers that benefit from legal expertise, but do not require a JD, include:  

  •         Lobbyist
  •         Environmental Policy Advocate
  •         Environmental Consultant
  •         Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Analyst
  •         Public Information Officer
  •         Land Use Planner
  •         Public Agency and Legislative Staff
  •         Policy Advisor
  •         Environmental Policy Specialist

And more. 

The state legislature also offers several opportunities on committees, agencies, and boards where a foundation in law is beneficial for those working with the branch of government enacting law. Conservation organizations and environmental nonprofits have positions where a legal background would also be an asset, as do state and local agencies. This is especially true in California, where environmental protection is greatly valued, and many policies are tested at the state level before moving to the national level.

How a Legal Background Helps with Environmental Work

In the state legislature, having a legal background helps in understanding how laws are made. It provides an awareness of the specific meaning of specialized terms, and how they should be used, whether in litigation, at the legislature, or working with agencies or the public. This knowledge helps to guide language when drafting a bill, so that the bill is clear and precise.

There are many statutes and laws that govern complex environmental issues pertaining to water, air, and land. It is important to comprehend how the statutes that affect each issue work together. Earning a master’s degree in Water and Environmental Law will strengthen your knowledge base while showing others in the field that you have valuable insights and can design policy initiatives that succeed.

A legal background also helps with interpreting the numerous rules and regulations established by local agencies, and state and federal administrations. You need to know what actions are required by the regulations, and why the requirements exist. Knowing how regulations affect the water or environmental sector where you work is essential. Understanding how the legal framework intersects with business and public agencies is also critical in environmental work.

By now, it should be clear that a legal background is incredibly helpful in this field. However, if not a JD, then what? How does someone interested in a well-rounded approach to environmental careers get this knowledge? Let’s look at two options.

McGeorge’s MSL in Water & Environmental Law Program

The Master of Science in Law, Water and Environmental Law program covers the legal principles of critical environmental and water issues. The program is taught by experts in the fields of water and environmental law, who are focused on developing and changing policies in both areas.

A unique feature of the program is that McGeorge is one of very few law schools that emphasizes water resources law and offers a legal degree for non-lawyers. Some of the topics covered include surface and groundwater rights, drought management, tribal rights, rights for federal lands, reasonable use, waste, the public trust doctrine, and water storage projects.

The Environmental Law courses focus on air pollution, solid waste management, fish and wildlife resources, environmental impact analysis, and related topics, with particular attention to common law doctrines and public rights.

Professor Delfino teaches Environmental Law in McGeorge’s MSL in Water & Environmental Law program. Her policy expertise is in state and federal endangered species, land use planning, water, and other natural resource laws.

The course focuses on federal law by providing an overview of the most prominent environmental laws, such as:

  •     CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act)
  •     National Environmental Policy Act
  •     Administrative Procedure Act
  •     Clean Water Act
  •     Clean Air Act
  •     Endangered Species Act
  •     Environmental citizen suits
  •     Climate change 

The course focuses on how these laws work and the court cases that interpret different provisions within the laws. Students are given the opportunity to understand how the laws are applied in a real-world setting. Delfino’s Environmental Law course has a group project that poses important questions to the students. They are asked to devise strategies to accomplish an environmental goal and how different sectors might respond to those strategies. The project pulls students into actual environmental legal situations and makes them look at all the parties affected.

Understanding these laws and how they are enforced prepares students to influence new laws, policies, and regulations governing water and environmental issues.

To learn more about Professor Delfino’s course, listen to the webinar.

The Online Master of Science in Law Program at McGeorge

McGeorge’s online MSL program allows students to build marketable expertise in government law, water resources law, or environmental law. The courses are guided by expert faculty chosen for their outstanding teaching and depth of knowledge in their fields.

The courses in the MSL program emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. The programs are convenient and specifically designed for working professionals or students who need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations and want to further their education and advance their careers.

For more information, contact us at graduatelaw@pacific.edu or 916.739.7019.

McGeorge Student Interviews

McGeorge’s Online MSL is Helping Legal Professionals From Diverse Backgrounds

McGeorge Student InterviewsThe McGeorge Master of Science in Law online programs prepare professionals in various fields and positions to work in law or in roles that intersect with legal issues. The MSL provides students with the legal knowledge and skills required to enhance their current jobs without the need to practice law.

McGeorge offers two online Master of Science in Law degrees – Water and Environment Law and Government Law and Policy. These programs are meant for recent graduates and working professionals and are on a part-time schedule with asynchronous courses. The MSL programs are designed to be interactive so that you can engage on a weekly basis with faculty and your classmates. The flexible curriculum allows you to study on the schedule that works best for you.

Students who enroll in these degree programs are from diverse backgrounds and work in varied professions. McGeorge recently spoke with several students who started the MSL program a few weeks prior. The interview sessions provided considerable insight into why they chose the program and how they plan to leverage the degree in their careers.

 

Bret Gladfelty

Bret GladfeltyBret Gladfelty is enrolled in the MSL in Government Law and Policy. After receiving his BA in Finances from Santa Clara University, Bret worked for a nonprofit where he became interested in an advocacy role. He is currently working as a contract lobbyist with the Apex Group. His job regularly interacts with the California code and many facets of the law. He feels that the MSL degree would help him better understand the law. Bret’s primary motivation for applying to the MSL is to be a better advocate and lobbyist.

Another key reason Bret chose McGeorge was the convenience of the online courses. He often travels for work not only as a lobbyist, but also as the commercial pilot for the firm, and an in-person program would have been challenging to manage with his schedule. “Having that flexibility is key in order for me to take the course. Otherwise, I would definitely miss some classes.” He was also influenced by colleagues who had completed the MSL program and advised him that it was beneficial for their careers as lobbyists. Bret’s father also attended McGeorge and received a JD in the 1980s.

Looking into his future, Bret sees the MSL as beneficial in reassuring prospective clients of his legal knowledge and abilities while interacting with the California Legislature. “I believe just having that extra degree displays that you have the dedication to learn more about the law.”

 

Heidi Mekkelson

Legal Professionals - Heidi MekkelsonHeidi Mekkelson is an environmental consultant and managing director at ICF in San Francisco. She has 19 years of experience in California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. Heidi is enrolled in the MSL in Water and Environmental Law program.

Heidi manages the preparation of environmental impact analyses pursuant to CEQA, which requires any public agency with discretionary authority to approve a project to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the project prior to approval. CEQA documents are often the subject of litigation, so lawyers thoroughly review the documents she prepares. She needs to be able to think like a lawyer and anticipate what they will want to see in her documents. “The MSL program teaches us how to interpret case law and statute, and how to apply legal analysis to our work, which are skills that are critical to my job.”

When she found McGeorge, she had been looking for a program that would expand her understanding of the law. Heidi chose the MSL at McGeorge for several reasons. “I loved the additional focus on water law. The subject of water resources has always been a favorite topic of mine. That extra layer was appealing.”

As a working professional with a full-time job and children, Heidi appreciates the program’s online format. “The asynchronous program is really the only option for me.” Although she is happy in her current position, Heidi is open to the possibilities the MSL degree will give her. “Whether it’s taking me to “next level” consultant status, improving the quality of the documents I prepare, or helping me pivot to a new career path, I know this program will do something great for my career.”

 

Jamaal Valentine

Legal Professionals - Jamaal ValentineJamaal Valentine holds a BA in Business Management and a Master of Business Administration, both degrees from the University of Phoenix. He served in the Air Force and is currently the Chief of the Contracting Office for the Department of Defense. In this role, Jamaal is responsible for buying goods and services that the government needs to operate using taxpayer dollars.

He feels that his MBA doesn’t help him in the Chief of the Contracting position because government contracting is unique. It doesn’t follow standard business practices. The MBA could not help him understand government operations. Although he receives regular training in his position, it hasn’t been particularly challenging.

Jamaal regularly works with judge advocate generals, which are basically government attorneys. There is a constant intersection with the law in his job. He feels that the Contract Law and Introduction to Legal Analysis courses are more structured than his on-the-job training. He joined the program because he is a life-long learner and to be a positive influence on his children.

“Now that I’m working with the California National Guard in a federal capacity, my hope is to be a better contracting officer and a better steward of the taxpayer dollars. Formal legal training will make it a reality.”

 

Nancy Beecher

Nancy BeecherNancy Beecher joined McGeorge’s MSL in Water and Environmental Law program. She has a Ph.D. from Indiana University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is a Senior Environmental Biologist at Southern Nevada Water Authority, where she helps ensure water for over two million residents and forty million annual visitors. Her main focus is providing scientific and writing expertise for water rights processes and environmental compliance efforts to support large water development projects. A major part of this work is blending biological, hydrologic, geospatial, and legal information to inform smart land and water resource management. She’s worked in the water profession for 15 years and wanted to grow professionally.

Water development projects have to meet many environmental legal requirements, so Nancy’s work regularly intersects with the law. But as a scientist, she felt limited by her lack of understanding of the law. She enrolled in the MSL program because she wanted to expand her knowledge from a legal perspective. She wants to understand the legal landscape, the current law, and cases popping up around the country regarding water and the environment.

“As a scientist, I want to be able to integrate that into my science and analysis.” Nancy appreciates McGeorge’s focus on water law as well as environmental law. “A water law class available to a nonlawyer is great because it’s so hard to find.”  

Nancy spent hours online searching for the right program to teach her about the law pertaining to the environment and water. She also needed it to be flexible enough to keep up with her demanding job. And with a family in tow, she did not have the option of moving to get that education. “McGeorge was unique because they really focus the program on professionals. People who are applying the law on a regular basis, but who also have jobs and families.”

She was happy to find that the program has both introductory and advanced law courses. As someone with no formal legal education, she is grateful for the introductory courses. She is also very excited to delve into the advanced classes that pertain to her field. “You get the complete package of the education you want.” 

The caliber of her cohort has been a pleasant surprise. She enjoys the different fields of interest and professions that her classmates have. The online aspect makes it easier for them all to fit school into their professional lives. And she’s excited by how passionate they are about why they’re in the program.

Nancy’s biggest reservation was wondering how much she would get from an online program. She was pleased to find there would be a few live sessions to give her a chance to connect with her professors and classmates. And the professors are very accommodating to the students. They have “Zoom office hours” and make themselves very available at the student’s preference. She also enjoys the convenience of the recorded classes.

Nancy saw benefits from the MSL program early on as she was able to apply what she learned in her very first class to her job the next day. Finally, Nancy added, “It’s worth the money and time – if you apply yourself. If your intention is to get the most out of the program, it’s worth it.”

 

Celine Takatsuno

Celine Takatsuno is the founder of Gracepoint Inc., where she provides global advisory and strategy consulting services to emerging technology companies and social impact startups.

Professionally, Celine is a generalist. She knew she didn’t want to be a litigator, but she was fascinated by the practice of law. Her work often crosses into legal areas in industries from advertising and media to caregiving and healthcare. She collaborates with lawyers in many aspects, including contracts and policy interpretation. Her current focus is on the dynamics of personal data privacy.-. “Technology and business are moving faster than legislation and policy,” she says, “I’d like to help bridge that.” 

Celine chose the MSL program at McGeorge for several reasons. She was searching for grad school programs in law or policy. And McGeorge stood out from other programs. She liked the school’s location in Sacramento and near the Capitol. She was also impressed with the program being based in a law school compared to other programs that were not. Celine said, “It has a lot of focus on critical analysis, legal reasoning, and there’s a lot of rigor coming from a law school. Those are probably the top reasons I chose it.”

Because she spends a great deal of time traveling, Celine wanted a hybrid or an online program. She likes the convenience of the recorded classes. “It’s so easy to take school on the road. That is super helpful.” In addition, she prefers to learn in a more self-directed environment.

An unexpected advantage to the program is the diversity of the students. Celine expected everyone to be early in their careers, with similar academic backgrounds. But instead, she found a diverse group. “I love the fact that we have these really, really accomplished professionals. The caliber of students is very motivating.”  

Deborah Keen

Legal Professionals - Deborah Keen Deborah Keen has been a high school government and legal studies teacher for many years. She has a BA from the University of North Texas in political science and always considered law school. Apart from her teaching position, Deborah is also a contract curriculum writer for agencies such as the Texas State Bar and the Center for American and International Law. In 2020, she was awarded Teacher of The Year by The American Lawyers Alliance for her efforts to promote quality civics education. She is currently enrolled in the MSL for Government Law and Policy program.

Deborah has a family and a career, but she wants to continue her education. She looked for programs that allowed her to study the law without having to become a lawyer. She does not wish to represent clients. Instead, her plans for the MSL degree are to advocate for public education and work alongside nonprofits. She likes the flexibility of the online program because it allows her to continue her work in education.

McGeorge’s online program is an excellent fit to help Deborah increase her knowledge. She felt other programs lacked the public policy focus she was looking for, whereas each class in McGeorge’s course list looked interesting and relevant to her career. “The courses, cost, the length of the program; I was impressed with what they offered, and I liked the government law and policy focus.”

 

Varied Backgrounds and Professions Have a Few Things in Common

Although the students are in varied professions and are at different levels of their careers, they have one common trait. They are incredibly pleased with the convenience of the online MSL program as it provides a way to continue their education while maintaining their current jobs.

Each student enrolled in either MSL program has different plans for their future. However, they are confident that McGeorge was the right choice. And they are excited about their courses and the positive impact the degree will have on their future careers.

Students build marketable expertise with the guidance of expert faculty chosen for outstanding teaching as well as the depth of knowledge in government law, water resources, or environmental law. Courses emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. The programs are convenient and are specifically designed for recent graduates and working professionals who need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations, and who want to further their education and advance their career.

Start building your career today with McGeorge School of Law Online. For more information, contact us at graduatelaw@pacific.edu or 916.739.7019.

California Water Law

Does California Water Law Need To Change To Address Climate Change?

Why California Water Law Is So Important

California’s arid climate contributes to its unique water conditions. Current laws provide a useful framework for managing water, but improvements are imperative if California is to provide safe drinking water, adapt to climate change, and protect its ecosystems. McGeorge’s professor of Water Resources Law, Jennifer Harder, describes proposed reforms to California water law in a recent webinar. Professor Harder outlines changes recommended by a group of water law experts, which are intended to benefit all people and entities that rely on California’s water supply. 

Nature of Drought in California

California Water LawCalifornia experiences a special kind of scarcity, having water in the wrong places at the wrong time. Wet winters and springs and dry summers and falls are typical for the western region of the U.S., including California. In California, more rain and snowfall in the northern part of the state and the eastern mountains, and less in central and southern California. Professor Harder explains that these particular kinds of scarcity are why California is said to be in a perpetual drought. However, when California is not in a drought phase, it is often flooding; a symptom of California’s climate of extremes.

The New York Times recently reported that many states, including California, are in a so-called “megadrought.” These states are experiencing some of the driest conditions in a 20 – 30 year period that we’ve seen in centuries. And 30 – 50% of those conditions directly resulting from climate change.

California’s unique water conditions create several challenges for the state’s water laws. Professor Harder notes, “There are some elements to our water law that are very capable, very flexible, and allow California to address drought. There are other elements that need to be changed.”

The constitutional standard for water in California states that water must be put to reasonable, beneficial use to the fullest extent possible. Moreover, the property rights in water have both public and private elements. Specifically, the laws enacted by the state legislature say that water belongs to the people of the state, but the state may allocate the private rights to water to individuals.

In proposed changes to water laws, both the public interest and private rights in water will need to be accommodated. Climate change will also have to be taken into consideration, or both public and private interests will be significantly affected, resulting in serious water shortages. 

Proposed Reforms in California Water Law

In 1978, then-California Governor Pat Brown presented the Governor’s Commission Report, which made important recommendations to reform California water rights law. The 1978 Governor’s Commission Report inspired a recent reform proposal, authored by a group of water law and policy experts, including Professor Harder. Other members include Professor Holly Doremus from Berkeley, Professor Rick Frank from Davis, Professor Camille Pannu from Irvine, and Professor Buzz Thompson from Stanford. Another member of the group, Cliff Lee, was a staff attorney on the 1978 Governor’s Commission Report and a former California Deputy Attorney General. The group’s final member is Tam Doduc, a former State Water Resources Control Board member.

The final report of these experts, “Updating California Water Law to Address Drought and Climate Change,” was issued on February 3rd, 2022. The report proposed reforms in the following three key policy areas: 

  • Implementing the human right to water
  • Adjusting the tools available to the State Water Resources Control Board
  • Address the extinction crisis in California native fisheries

Specific recommendations relate to ensuring that those who are dependent on groundwater for drinking water are not impacted by agricultural groundwater pumping; providing the state with the tools needed to ensure that water rights are lawfully exercised; providing for “real-time” data regarding the use of water statewide, and ensuring that dams are operated to protect water quality for fish. The group did not suggest that their recommended reforms would provide all necessary fixes to state law; the group advocates for and supports others that seek to reform California’s water laws recommendations. 

Some of the water experts’ recommendations are being incorporated into pending legislation and considered for regulatory implementation. To learn more about the proposed recommendations, please watch the webinar.

The MSL Program’s Unique Environmental Courses

The MSL degree is a part-time, fully online, 26-unit degree program with asynchronous lectures. Students interact with their professors and classmates weekly through discussion boards throughout the program and have opportunities to work on projects with classmates and meet with professors virtually in flexible office hours. Typically, the coursework is spread over two years. However, arrangements for a more flexible schedule can be made with the Assistant Dean for Graduate and Online Programs.

McGeorge’s Master of Science in Law online program has two concentrations – Government Law and Policy and Water and Environmental Law. These two concentrations are closely connected and complement each other. The MSL program is for those who want to have practical knowledge of law and policy but do not want to be lawyers.

The Water and Environmental Law program offer unique courses that focus on the legal aspects of environmental issues. For example, water and environmental law is heavily connected to the work of public agencies at the local, state, and federal levels; McGeorge’s curriculum includes courses such as The Executive Branch and the Administrative State, and Leadership in Organizations, which provide students with practical skills needed to work with agencies. Some of these skills include lessons in how to write, interpret, and comment on policies and regulations, expert insights into agency processes, and practical strategies for working with agencies.  

Other courses:

  • Water Resources Law, taught by Professor Harder, gives students a practical understanding of water use and the social policies that govern water management.
  • Environmental Law is a survey course that covers the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and laws in other areas such as, for example, hazardous waste and climate change.
  • Water and Environmental Justice focuses on water rights in disadvantaged communities, federal and tribal rights, the human right to water, and the public trust doctrine. The course looks at water allocation through a critical race lens and investigates the legal and institutional frameworks for water supply as well as the deeply related issue of land use, with a particular focus on drinking water.

Online LLM in Water & Environmental Law at McGeorge School of Law

McGeorge also offers the LLM in Water & Environmental Law. The LLM program is for attorneys, recent law school graduates, or foreign-educated legal professionals to develop depth of knowledge in a specialized area of environmental, water resources, regulatory compliance, and public agency law.

Students build marketable expertise with the guidance of expert faculty chosen for outstanding teaching as well as the depth of knowledge in government law, water resources, or environmental law. Courses emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. The programs are convenient and are specifically designed for recent graduates and working professionals who need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations, and who want to further their education and advance their careers.

Professor Jennifer Harder

Why McGeorge Has One of the Best Environmental Law School Programs

The McGeorge School of Law, the best environmental law school program in California, provides opportunities for students to take on leadership roles in a challenging global economy. Climate change, plastic pollution, and poor environmental governance are challenging the state of our environment. McGeorge’s MSL in Water and Environmental Law gives students a real-world education with the hands-on experience to help them contribute to policies that positively impact the environment. 

McGeorge is the best environmental law school for several reasons.

Our Faculty – Leading Environmental Law Experts

The environmental law faculty are experts in water and environmental law, and they impart real-world knowledge and practical skills in their outstanding teaching. The professors have years of hands-on experience in the areas they teach. Here are a few examples of the caliber of professor you’ll learn from at McGeorge.

Best Environmental Law SchoolProfessor Rachel Salcido is both the founder and Co-Director of the law school’s Water and Environmental Law Concentration, where she helps students garner interest in environmental law and connects students with careers in the field. She believes there are myriad opportunities today for students interested in engaging in environmental law — including work on climate change, water, and environmental justice. She co-authored the textbook Global Issues in Environmental Law with Professor Stephen McCaffrey, which examines international and transnational pollution control, remediation, and species protection issues. 

 

Best Environmental Law SchoolAnother professor with extensive experience in water law is Professor Stephen McCaffrey. A Distinguished Professor of Law, he is one of the world’s foremost authorities on international water law and teaches International Water Resources Law. In 2018, Professor McCaffrey received the Distinguished Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy. He won the award for his lifetime of service in developing international environmental law and for his work on the International Law Commission. He was named the Stockholm Water Laureate in 2017. 

 

 

Professor Jennifer HarderProfessor Jennifer Harder teaches Water Resources Law and Environmental Practice and is Co-Director of McGeorge’s Water & Environmental Law concentration. Before joining McGeorge, Professor Harder represented clients at the State Water Resources Control Board and represented local governments and private entities on water, environmental, and public agency issues for ten years. She uses this background to help develop the online graduate programming as McGeorge’s Faculty Director for Online Learning. Professor Harder received the Hether C. McFarlane Teaching Innovation Award in 2018.

 


Professor Kim Delfino teaches Environmental Law in McGeorge’s Water & Environmental Law program. She is the founder and president of Earth Advocacy, a firm that provides policy and advocacy guidance to nonprofits and foundations. Prior to her work with Earth Advocacy, Professor Delfino was the California program director for Defenders of Wildlife and a member of the California Water Commission. Her policy expertise lies in state and federal endangered species, land use planning, water, and other natural resource laws.

 

Professor Nicole Kuenzi teaches the administrative law course in McGeorge’s graduate Water & Environmental Law Program and is an expert on agency practice and on California water law. She is a hearing officer in California’s Administrative Hearings Office. The office is housed within the California State Water Resources Control Board, which is the agency charged with safeguarding the state’s water resources for all Californians. 

At McGeorge, students gain a practical understanding of water allocation and its use in contemporary society and critically examine the social policies that govern water management. The online MSL for Water and Environmental Law program is one of the few that emphasizes water resources law.

McGeorge’s Online MSL Program

The Master of Science in Law for Water and Environmental Law is a specialized online master’s degree program accessible to working professionals. The program is part-time, fully online, with asynchronous coursework so students can study on their schedule. They gain practical skills based on a real-world curriculum. Even though the program is online, students can engage with faculty and peers using tools and technology that support an interconnected online environment.

With the MSL in Water and Environmental Law, you’ll have an advantage over the competition with specialized knowledge that will enhance your potential for career advancement. You will benefit from the network of faculty, experts, alumni, and other water and environmental law students. In addition, you could write a publishable research paper that would increase your credibility when combined with the MSL and could be a gateway to Ph.D. work.

The law is at the center of the majority of water and environmental issues. So, any environmental career would be enhanced with the MSL degree. The degree would enable you to understand and engage with the law and policy aspects of your field. 

Our MSL coursework will allow you to understand the local, state, and federal statutes and regulations, including the process of drafting, judicial review, and implementation. The curriculum focuses equally on practical skills as well as legal theory. For example, you’ll learn about state and federal frameworks for water rights, pollution control, species protection, climate change, and environmental justice.  You will also learn how to identify specific water rights, develop specific proposals for ensuring equity in natural resources distribution, comment on regulations, respond to comments, and compiling administrative records. You will have the opportunity to learn how environmental legal professionals communicate and negotiate, and develop leadership skills that will help you achieve your goals and make a difference. 

Water and Environmental Law Fundamentals

The Water and Environmental Law concentration provides critical knowledge and skills in today’s complex regulatory environment. The master course of study facilitates interdisciplinary excellence within government, non-profit, and private enterprise.

The topics covered in the coursework for the online MSL are some of the most critical environmental issues the world is facing. For example, some of the legal principles covered in Water Resources Law include surface and groundwater rights, drought management, federal-state relationships, reasonable use and waste, the public trust doctrine, instream flows, tribal rights, federal reserved rights, and water storage projects. Students learn to identify specific water rights and assess water supply sustainability in a community of their choice. 

In the Environmental Law course, particular attention is given to common law doctrines and public rights and remedies, as well as federal and state control programs for air pollution, water pollution, solid waste management, and climate change. There’s a focus on fish and wildlife resources and planning within federal, state, and local agencies. Students receive training in core areas of environmental law, and explore real-world opportunities for engaging on these issues. 

Online MSL in Water and Environmental Law For a Changing Legal Environment

Specific topics in the Water and Environmental Justice course include the human right to water, local, state, and federal governance of drinking water, water finance and affordability, private pollution and energy production, rural communities of color and infrastructure, agricultural pollution, and grassroots advocacy. Students have the opportunity to evaluate specific drinking water systems and recommend real-world solutions. 

These are just a few of the compelling course offerings available to McGeorge MSL students. Our distinguished faculty and academic team design the courses for the online MSL in Water and Environmental Law to ensure that students are prepared for the rapidly changing legal environment. Our courses focus on developing the knowledge and professional skills needed in today’s water and environmental law field.

McGeorge’s faculty and staff are invested in student success and create a supportive and empathetic environment. But they don’t just teach – they challenge their students with new ideas and push them academically.

Tara Beltran (MSL ’18) was considering pursuing a master’s degree while managing a habitat program at a California public agency. Many of the MBA programs that she found lacked the foundational work in water and environmental law that she knew she needed for advancement. Tara determined that McGeorge was the best environmental law school and the Master of Science in Law was the best program to advance her career. “McGeorge’s program is absolutely relevant to my work,” Tara said, “and it definitely gave me what I needed.” “It pushed me professionally from having just a job to building a career.”

Tara praises her courses and the faculty at McGeorge, noting that “the professors are engaging and are experts in the field.”

In-Depth Research Courses Are Stepping Stones for Your Career

Another reason that McGeorge is the best environmental law school is the extensive knowledge that students gain in the MSL in water and environmental law program. The research courses allow students to deeply explore a specific topic, learning the nuances of theory and practice, setting them apart as experts and preparing them to tackle complex issues in the real world.

  • Directed Research in Water and Environmental Law: In this course, students engage in a comprehensive individual research project under the supervision of a full-time faculty member. The work product may take the form of a scholarly paper, empirical study, analysis of topical readings, or another creative format that demonstrates in-depth legal research and original analysis.

 

  • Master’s Thesis in Water and Environmental Law:  In the Master Thesis course, students write a thesis under the guidance of a full-time faculty member acting as supervisor. The thesis should present an original idea, demonstrate mastery of research skills appropriate to the field, and be analytical and/or critical instead of merely descriptive. The final product should exemplify high-quality academic writing consistent with the professional goals of the student.

 

Positions With Growth Potential

The online MSL program prepares students for a range of jobs in the water and environmental law field where legal knowledge is an advantage, but a law degree is not required. Just a few examples of the wide range of careers that are enhanced by these studies include:

  • Land Use Planners
  • Engineers
  • Environmental Consultants
  • Public Information Officers
  • Lobbyists
  • Public Agency and Legislative Staff
  • Policy Advisor
  • Environmental Policy Specialist
  • Environmental Advocates 

 Advantages to Learning Water and Environmental Law at McGeorge 

The Master of Science of Law for Water and Environmental Law offers an online course of study, which provides convenience for students. The program integrates state-of-the-art teaching and learning principles in online education, and our graduates testify to the value of the online courses. Online students have access to many academic resources and services at McGeorge such as, for example, library privileges and career counseling. In addition, all online students are welcome to participate in McGeorge water and environmental law activities, whether virtual or on-campus. 

McGeorge MSL students have opportunities to:

  • Attend job fairs, fields trips, lectures, and events in the McGeorge Water Law and Environmental Law Societies
  • Participate in premier water and environmental law graduate externships 
  • Obtain scholarships to help offset program costs and reduce loans  
  • Publish and network in McGeorge’s California Water Law Journal
  • Attend the California Water Law Symposium and other professional events
  • Attend online courses that provide practical, interdisciplinary learning and schedule flexibility
  • Participate in faculty-supervised independent and group research projects 

McGeorge also hosts monthly webinars with experts in law, water and environmental policy, faculty, and legal professionals. We encourage students to join and participate in the Q&A after the webinar.

Recognition in Legal Education

llm in Water & Environmental LawMcGeorge gains recognition for being a leader in legal education by the National Jurist, with the LLM in Water and Environmental Law making the Honor Roll for 2021-2022. The National Jurist is one of the leading news sources in the field of legal education. The magazine is published four times a year and lists the best national law schools based on diversity, value, practical training, and other factors.

The McGeorge School of Law provides the professional expertise necessary to acquire advanced knowledge of the U.S. legal system. If you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree but prefer not to become an attorney and practice law, an MSL from McGeorge provides you with the master’s-level depth of knowledge about law and policy that will help you accomplish your goals.

Students build marketable expertise with the guidance of expert faculty chosen for outstanding teaching as well as depth of knowledge in government law, water resources, or environmental law. Courses emphasize real-world knowledge and the development of practical skills. The programs are convenient and are specifically designed for working professionals or students who need flexibility due to career, family, or other obligations, and who want to further their education and advance their career. For more information, contact us at graduatelaw@pacific.edu or 916.739.7019.