Brian M. Nazarenus

Legal Assistant: Erika Cwetna


For more than 25 years, Brian's practice has focused almost exclusively on helping water users find, secure and defend their water rights in Colorado and the Western U.S. His clients include municipalities, water and wastewater sanitation districts, mines, golf course developers, energy companies and various commercial facilities. Brian serves as a trusted advisor, providing strategic guidance on long-term water planning and water rights projects.

In Colorado, his experience includes the adjudication of surface and underground water rights, the development and adjudication of augmentation plans, water rights transfers, and exchange cases. Brian has also litigated and negotiated settlements regarding complex tribal water claims in other Western states.

Water Rights in Colorado. Brian has handled substantial water rights litigation involving both trial and appellate matters before the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Court of Appeals, the Colorado water courts, and the Colorado State Engineer.

His representative water rights work in Colorado includes:

  • Serving as lead counsel in the adjudication of water rights for several Colorado power plants.
  • Serving as lead counsel in the adjudication of complex water rights systems for large mining operations in Colorado.
  • Serving as lead counsel in the adjudication of municipal water supplies for major Denver suburbs.

Given his vast experience, Brian regularly evaluates, drafts, and testifies about proposed water rights legislation before the Colorado Legislature.

Water Rights in Other Western States. Brian represents clients in other western states in major water rights litigation, including litigation in federal court regarding Tribal Water Rights. In addition to appearing before federal district courts, he has argued appeals regarding water rights matters to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Brian's representative water rights work in other western states includes:

  • Filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, representing the interests of an Oklahoma-based municipality in an interstate compact dispute between the state of Oklahoma and Texas water providers, resulting in a favorable outcome for our client. (Tarrant Regional Water District, A Texas State Agency v. Rudolf John Herrmann, et al.)
  • Serving as lead counsel in litigation regarding Tribal Water Rights in Oklahoma.
  • Representing municipal clients in state administrative permit proceedings.

Business Transactions Involving Water Rights. Brian has substantial experience negotiating business transactions involving water rights, including the purchase and sale of water rights and related facilities as well as the negotiation of contracts governing long-term water rights operations.

Brian's transactional water rights experience includes:

  • Negotiating multi-party transactions involving the purchase and sale of reservoirs.
  • Negotiating and due diligence involving agricultural water rights purchases.
  • Negotiating and drafting complex water pipeline and storage agreements.

Permitting & Compliance in the Mining Context. Brian has helped hard-rock mining companies obtain reclamation permits from the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board and land use and permitting authorizations from local county governments.

Regulatory Leadership. Brian served as a member of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission from 1999 to 2008, including as the Commission's Chair from 2006-2007.



  • American Bar Association Natural Resources and Litigation Sections
  • Wyoming Bar Association
  • Colorado Bar Association Water and Environmental Law Sections
  • Ryley Carlock & Applewhite, Executive Committee Member


Brian is recognized in Colorado Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America and Chambers USA for his work in water rights, natural resources and environmental. In addition, Brian has been selected "Best Water Lawyer" in Law Week Colorado's annual Barrister's Best issue in 2010, 2012, and 2014-2018. Brian has earned an AV-Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell.