Joe Hughes is a water lawyer and leads the firm’s water and public agency practice group. He is a fourth generation resident of Kern County. Joe approaches the practice of law with a commitment to hard work, common sense, and pragmatism. He is AV® rated by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest level of distinction.
Joe has spent 25 years representing water agencies in the development, management, protection, and transfer of water supplies and water rights. On behalf of his water agency clients, he has worked extensively on matters ranging from the State Water Project to appropriative and riparian water rights to groundwater sustainability. As a member of public boards himself, Joe understands the policy-making and governing challenges faced by public officials. With his team, he serves as General Counsel for the following agencies:
- Belridge Water Storage District, Lost Hills Water District, Berrenda Mesa Water District, Dudley Ridge Water District
- West Kern Water District
- Kings River Water Association, Kings River Conservation District, Kings River Water Quality Coalition
- Chowchilla Water District
- Cuyama Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency
- East Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency
- Mound Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency
- North of River Sanitary District
- Golden Hills Community Services District
Using the experience and network gained from his representation of public agencies, Joe also represents private entities. He has represented sellers and buyers in a myriad of water exchanges and transfers. He has also formed complex groundwater banking projects for his clients both separately and in partnership with water agencies. Joe has represented landowners in the Antelope Valley groundwater adjudication as well as under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Joe serves as water counsel for many farming companies needing this special expertise.
While Joe’s practice currently focuses on advising public and private clients in water transactions, he spent over two decades in the litigation arena. Using that experience, he can navigate the litigation process to strategically assert his clients’ rights without losing sight of their objectives. Joe has the following reported decisions:
In addition to his other volunteer activities in the community, Joe has served on the Board of Directors of the Kern County Bar Association since 2015, serving as its President in 2020. He has served on the Legal Affairs Committee of the Association of California Water Agencies since 2012.
Outside of the office, Joe spends his time with his wife, Sandy, two children, and Archie the dog looking for the next great adventure.