Steve Leonhardt

Steve Leonhardt
Special Counsel

Phone: 303-796-2626


Printable Profile

Stephen H. Leonhardt concentrates his practice on water law, related governmental and environmental issues, and related appeals. Mr. Leonhardt counsels clients on the establishment, protection, and modification of water rights throughout Colorado. His clients include local water suppliers, industrial water users, land developers, individual landowners, non-profit organizations and a regional water conservancy district. He represents clients in judicial and administrative proceedings and transactions concerning rights to use both surface water and groundwater. He has represented clients in hundreds of cases in Colorado’s Water Courts, and in numerous appeals in the Colorado Supreme Court. He has been recognized in Best Lawyers in America each year since 2010 for his work in water law. Steve was recognized as “Barrister’s Best” in water law for 2022 by Colorado Law Week.

Mr. Leonhardt is admitted to practice in the State of Colorado, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Before joining Burns, Figa & Will, P.C., Mr. Leonhardt practiced law with Fairfield and Woods, P.C., from 1985 to 2002.

Mr. Leonhardt is an active member of the Colorado Bar Association, and the American Bar Association. He is actively involved in the Colorado Water Congress, and has represented the CWC in several legal proceedings involving proposed amendments to the Colorado Constitution and other threats to Colorado’s prior appropriation doctrine. He served on the State of Colorado’s Work Group to Explore Ways to Strengthen Current Water Anti-speculation Law in 2020-21 (appointed by the Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources). He also served on the Advisory Board for the University of Denver Water Law Review from 2014-2022. He is also a member of the Christian Legal Society (having served on the national Board of Directors). Mr. Leonhardt served on the Ethics Committee of the Colorado Bar Association from 1988 to 1996. He is a frequent lecturer on legal ethics, ballot initiatives, and issues related to water law. Mr. Leonhardt was born in Santa Monica, California, and grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He enjoys playing piano, hiking, fishing, travel, history and baseball.

Areas of Expertise
Water Rights and Water Quality

Administrative, Governmental and Legislative


Municipal and Special Districts

Natural Resources and Public Lands


Legal: Stanford University Law School, Stanford, California J.D., 1985

Undergraduate: Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri B.S.C.E. with honors, 1982

Practice Areas:

Water Law

Reported Cases
  • High Plains A & M v. Southeastern Colo. Water Conservancy Dist., 120 P. 3d 710 (Colo. 2005)
  • ISG, LLC v. Ark. Valley Ditch Ass’n., 120 P.3d 724 (Colo. 2005)
  • Coors Brewing Co. v. City of Golden, 420 P.3d 977 (Colo. 2018)
  • State v. Hill, 530 P.3d 632 (Colo. 2023) (Amicus Brief)
  • Hill v. Warsewa, 947 F.3d 1305 (10th 2020) (Amici Brief)
  • Semple v. Griswold, 934 F.3d 1134 (10th 2019) (Amici Brief)
  • Wolfe v. Sedalia Water & San. Dist., 343 P.3d 16 (Colo. 2015) (Amicus Brief)
  • Cordero v. Doe, 328 P.3d 127 (Colo. 2014)
  • Kemper v. Leahy, 328 P.3d 172 (Colo. 2014)
  • Kemper v. Hamilton, 274 P.3d 562 and 576 (Colo. 2012).
  • Centennial Water & Sanitation Dist. v. City & County of Broomfield, 256 P.3d 677 (Colo. 2011)(Amici Brief)
  • In re Title, Ballot Title and Submission Clause for #17 (2007-08), 177 P.3d 871 (Colo. 2007)
  • MacRavey v. Hamilton (Public Rights in Waters II), 898 P.2d 1076 (Colo. 1995)
  • Frontier Ditch Co. v. Southeastern Colo. Water Conservancy Dist., 761 P.2d 1117 (Colo. 1988)
  • Southeastern Colo. Water Conservancy Dist. v. Twin Lakes Associates, 770 P.2d 1231 (Colo. 1989)
Speaking Engagements
  • Colorado Water Congress – Workshop on Legal Ethics in Water and Environmental Law – “Professional Conduct: Rules, Values and Obligations” (annually from December 2002 – November 2022)
  • DU Water Law Review Symposium – “Hill v. Warsewa and Colorado Water Law” (April 2023)
  • DU Water Law Review Symposium – “Maximum Utilization and Integration of Surface and Groundwater: Plans for Augmentation” (2019)
  • DU Water Law Review Symposium – “Ethical and Professional Standards for Lawyers and Engineering Experts in Water Court Litigation and Dispute Resolution” (2017).
  • Colorado Water Workshop – “Colorado Water Law: Is There Room for the Public Trust Doctrine?” (June 2014)
  • Colorado Bar Association CLE – Compacts and Interstate Water Allocation. “Arkansas River Compact Issues: Recent Litigation and Solutions” (May 2014)
  • CLE International – Law of the Rio Grande: “Ethics Considerations for Lawyers Working with or Representing Government Entities” (April 2014)
  • Southwestern Water Conservation District – Annual Water Seminar, “Public Trust Doctrine: The Real Story” (April 2014)
  • Colorado Bar Association Water Law Section – Luncheon CLE: “The Public Trust Doctrine vs. Colorado Water Rights” (March 2013)
  • CLE International, Colorado Water Law – “Legal Ethics: Issues for Colorado Water Law Practice” (March 2012)
  • CLE International – Colorado Water Law Conference – “Surface Water Irrigation Improvements Rules in Water Division 2: Implications for Colorado Water Users and Administration” (May 2010)
  • Colorado Bar Association CLE – Water Rights and Resources of the Arkansas River Basin – “Water Importations to the Arkansas River Basin” (March 2010)
  • CLE International – Water Marketing: Transfer of Rights from All Perspectives – “Ethics: Considerations for Lawyers’ Roles” (December 2009)
  • Colorado Bar Association CLE – Expert Witnesses in Water Cases – “Ethics for Lawyers Working with Expert Witnesses in Water Cases” (October 2008)
  • CLE International – Colorado Water Law Conference – “Speculation and Changes of Water Rights” (with Scott A. Clark, Esq.) (January 2006)
  • Colorado Bar Association CLE – Trial and Appellate Advocacy for Water Lawyers – “Ethics of Advocacy and Advising the Client in Water Litigation and Appeals” (October 2005)
  • Lorman Educational Services – Water Rights Sales and Transfers – “Protecting Interests of Other Parties in Water Transfers” (March 2005 and March 2007)
  • Colorado Water Congress, Colorado Water Law Seminar – “Legal Ethics in Water Law Practice” (September 2001, 2002 and 2004)
  • Colorado Water Congress, Workshop on Initiatives – “Title Board Action, Supreme Court Review and the Single Subject Requirement” (November 2002 and October 2000)
  • CLE International, Colorado Wetlands Seminar – “Ethics Considerations: Counseling and Representing Clients on Wetlands Issues” (November 2001 and September 2000)
  • Continuing Legal Education in Colorado – Advanced Real Estate Seminar – “Current Ethical Issues in Real Estate Transactions” (November 1997)
  • Colorado Water Congress, 37th Annual Convention – Debate with Prof. David Getches on “The Public Trust Doctrine – What It is – Is It Headed For Colorado?” (January 1995)