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Chris Thorne represents energy companies, real estate developers, industrial water users, agricultural water users, and municipal water providers in virtually all types of water related transactions, and in litigation matters and related administrative proceedings involving the adjudication of water rights, changes of water rights, complex plans for augmentation, and water rights disputes.

With more than two decades of experience in Western water law, Chris represents clients in virtually all types of commercial transactions involving water rights, including water supply agreements for energy generation and industrial projects (including oil and gas facilities); development of water supplies for residential and resort developments; and water rights acquisitions/leases. He also represents clients in state and federal courts, including in Colorado’s Water Courts, the Colorado Supreme Court, and the United States Supreme Court

Chris has wide-ranging experience litigating recreational water rights claims and advocating for his clients in legislative processes. Additionally, he advises on environmental compliance matters and environmental litigation under the Clean Water Act and other federal environmental programs.


  • Water rights
  • Water transactions
  • Energy project development
  • Water rights litigation
  • Clean Water Act
  • Land/Resort development



  • Served as water rights counsel to Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust (“BREIT”) in BREIT-led joint ventures for acquisition of Las Vegas assets of MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay ($4.6 billion), and of Bellagio ($4.25 billion).
  • Served as water rights counsel to private equity fund relating to acquisition of major tree/landscape nursery operations in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Texas ($750 million).
  • Served as water rights counsel in connection with $125 million financing of City of Greeley, Colorado’s acquisition of rights to 1.2 million acre-feet of ground water associated with the Terry Bison Ranch.
  • Serves as water rights counsel to Denver International Airport in connection with development of groundwater resources.
  • Served as Special Assistant Attorney General representing the Colorado State Land Board concerning Lowry Bombing Range water rights assets.
  • Serves as Special Water Counsel to the City of Pueblo, Colorado; Town of Fraser, Colorado; Gateway Metropolitan District; Eastern Adams County Metropolitan District; and the St. Charles Mesa Water District.
  • Represented Denver-based private equity fund in acquisitions, and sales to the Cities of Greeley and Aurora, Colorado, of significant agricultural real estate and water rights assets on Colorado’s Front Range.
  • Represented the City of Pueblo, Colorado and the City of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in Water Court applications/proceedings confirming recreational water rights on the Arkansas River and the Colorado River.

Recognition & Leadership

  • Team Member, a Law360 “Environmental Practice Group of the Year, 2022
  • Listed, 5280 The Denver Magazine, “Top Lawyers, Water Law,” 2011-2023
  • Listed, The Best Lawyers in America, Water Law, 2011-2024
  • Member, Colorado Water Congress, State Affairs Committee, 2005-Present
  • Member, American Bar Association, 1991-Present
    • Member, Natural Resources, Energy & Environmental Law Section, 1991-Present
  • Member, Colorado Bar Association, 1990-Present
    • Member, Water Law Section, 1990-Present
  • Chairman, Town of Berthoud Planning & Zoning Commission, 2000-2014


  • J.D., University of Colorado Law School, 1990
  • B.A., English, Colorado College, 1986
  • Colorado