Tom Hicks Law is a small firm that specializes in water issues. Priding ourselves on creative, out-of-the-box thinking, we have developed and work with a suite of innovative legal tools to help our clients resolve their water supply problems or opportunities.


Cannabis Waste Discharge Order: On August 13, 2015, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board took the lead among the nine Regional Water Quality Boards in California by passing Order No. 2015-0023, “Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements and General Water Quality Certification for Discharges of Waste Resulting from Cannabis Cultivation and Associated Activities or Operations with Similar Environmental Effects In the North Coast Region.” While the North Coast Board was the first (followed by the Central Valley Board in early October) all nine of the Boards are mandated to promulgate Cannabis Regulations under new laws passed by the Governor. Read more…

Tiered Rates Case: Tom speaks to CBS San Francisco Bay Area Reporter Mark Kelly about the California appeals court’s decision to strike down tiered water rates. At least two-thirds of the state’s water utilities use tiered rates, charging more per unit for heavy water users to encourage conservation. Read more…

Tom was featured on the KPIX CBS San Francisco Bay Area Segment, “Water Watch”

Tom was featured on the KPIX CBS San Francisco Bay Area Segment, “Some Californians Allowed To Keep Using Water For Free Amid Record Drought”

How We Work

Business & Economics

A business sensibility is essential to successful legal strategy. Costs and benefits of legal action must be carefully evaluated at the onset of any engagement to ensure that the Client’s needs and best interests are prioritized accordingly.

Our practice has adopted modern technologies and streamlined solutions to reduce legal overhead and operational costs to provide a lower-cost and higher-value legal service to all Clients.

  • We provide law firms the value of a specialty practice without the cost of a full-time, permanent hire.
  • We serve as outside general counsel for Land Trusts and other non-profits who have strict budgetary limitations and dynamic requirements by providing nimble contract flexibility.
  • We work collaboratively with our private clients to find ways to minimize legal costs while remaining focused on achieving goals.

Collaborative Leadership

Tom has a proven ability to bring people together in common purpose to generate uncommon results. He is an active communicator with strong organizational skills. He is a former Class V whitewater rafting guide, kayaker, ski patrolman, and Colorado Outward Bound instructor willing to lead, follow, and take appropriately managed risks to achieve Clients’ goals and objectives.

Outside the Box Thinking

So many of the issues faced by our clients cannot be easily solved by linear thinking and strategies, and often require the discovery and incorporation of “third door” opportunities. We pride ourselves on our ability to find unconventional solutions to intractable issues.

Representative Matters

Often, client matters require a blending of several areas of practice. A client with water supply issues may find itself designing and building a conservation project for a third party in exchange for a long-term water lease that requires administrative approval from State and Local agencies. We pride ourselves on our ability to tease out these multi-disciplinary opportunities on behalf of our clients.

Water Rights Transactions:

  • Forbearance Agreements
  • 1707 Instream Dedications
  • Leases
  • Sales
  • Acquisitions
  • Tax Deductions
  • Due diligence


  • Water Rights
  • Water Quality
  • Cannabis Discharge Regulations
  • Conservation Projects


  • Change applications
  • Applications for water rights
  • Streambed alteration
  • Safe Haven Agreements
  • Decree supplementation and amendment
  • Discharge permits


Tom brings a special focus and expertise in water law and policy dating back before law school, most prominently as a water and energy policy associate at the Natural Heritage Institute, where he participated in the drafting of a successful United States Supreme Court Amicus Brief in S.D. Warren v. Maine DEP (Clean Water Act) and facilitated the creation of the Alaska Public Waters Coalition.

Most recently, Tom worked extensively on the Prop 1 Bond, lobbying tirelessly to include language and funding essential to the continuing development of a viable and sustainable voluntary instream transfer market in the state.

For more information about our practice, please fill out the contact form or call 415-309-2098.