Business Transactions and Finance


Water Rights Law

The legal right to own, control and use water remains of critical importance to municipalities, developers, farmers and ranchers, energy producers, landowners, and public and private companies throughout Oklahoma as the world’s most valuable resource is caught in a constant tug-of-war between increasing demand and limited supply.

McAfee & Taft assists clients with a broad range of water allocation, acquisition, ownership, transfer and protection rights throughout Oklahoma, as well as neighboring states that share groundwater aquifers and surface waters, in accordance with state and federal law.

Much of our practice is concentrated on ensuring landowners and lessees receive the allotment of water to which they are entitled through the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s permitting process. We routinely represent water rights applicants and permit holders in filing permits, amending permits, and defending streamwater and groundwater applications for irrigation, ranching, oil and gas industry production, and other beneficial uses.

As conflicts over water arise, we also represent cities and towns, real estate developers, agricultural producers and major industry organizations in disputes over the acquisition, transfer and protection of water rights, the proper determination of maximum annual yields of groundwater basins, and various permitting issues before governmental agencies and in state and federal courts. See ‘Water Rights Disputes’

As counsel to many of the state’s leading industry organizations and advocacy groups, our lawyers have their fingers on the pulse of Oklahoma’s diverse water needs, and we aggressively work to ensure our clients’ short-term and long-term needs are met.


  • Obtained declaratory judgment in federal court on behalf of a real estate developer who disputed a rural water district’s claim that it had the exclusive right under federal law to provide water and sewer service to the developer’s land. In same case, successfully appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals an attempt by the rural water district to remove a pending action to federal court.
  • Successfully represented a group of Oklahoma landowners in their petition to de-annex certain land within the boundaries of a rural water, sewer and solid waste management district for the purpose of obtaining a more adequate water supply from the local municipality to support its land development efforts.
  • Advised a major financial institution on groundwater issues, including the retention of groundwater rights, related to the sale of property by its trust department.
  • Represented the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Legal Foundation in filing an amici curiae brief before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in a dispute brought by downstream landowners against an upstream landowner regarding the riparian or appropriative rights to streamwater.
  • Represented a farming operator in complex and highly-disputed groundwater permit hearings before the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
  • Advised major industry group on water rights and usage regarding Oklahoma’s Arbuckle-Simpson groundwater basin.

Water Rights Law Team

Colby J. Byrd

Associate, Industry Group Leader

(405) 270-6059

Garrett J. Reed


(405) 552-2316

Jeff L. Todd

Of Counsel

(405) 552-2269