Somach Simmons and Dunn, Attorneys at Law Somach Simmons & Dunn | Attorneys at Law



  • University of Colorado Law School (J.D., 2015)
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (B.A., 2011)


  • Colorado

Michael W. Daugherty

Michael Daugherty represents public and private parties in complex matters involving water and other natural resources throughout the West. Michael combines his experience working for several premier Colorado water law firms with a unique perspective gained through his work in Indian Country, including as in-house natural resources counsel to the Navajo Nation. Michael provides legal advice regarding water rights, water quality, and land use to a variety of clients, including public entities, ranches, resorts, and universities.

Michael has experience handling complex water rights matters throughout Colorado, including in the water courts for all seven of the state’s water divisions. Michael helps municipal water suppliers with complex integrated water systems protect and expand their water rights portfolios, private property owners understand their decreed and undecreed water rights, and ditch companies and private developers negotiate development agreements. Michael also represents parties in state rulemaking hearings before the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission and Parks and Wildlife Commission, negotiates water service agreements between water users and water providers throughout the state, and advises clients on water rights administration by the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

Michael’s experience living and working in Indian Country also makes him uniquely qualified to handle complex water rights matters that involve tribal interests. Prior to joining the firm, Michael worked in the Navajo Nation’s attorney general office, providing legal advice and representation to the Navajo Nation departments of land, fish and wildlife, historic preservation, and environmental protection. Key matters worked on include the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, landmark legislation that increased tribal authority over leasing and permitting on tribal land, and formal negotiations with the National Park Service regarding wilderness designations and the State of Utah regarding off-reservation hunting rights. His first position after law school graduation was with DNA-People’s Legal Services, where he worked as a public defender for the Hopi Tribe.

Beyond his law practice, Michael enjoys exploring the outdoors in Colorado and around the world. Michael has traveled extensively, including a year backpacking through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, and he spent a winter teaching Spanish-language ski lessons in Vail, CO. While working on the Navajo Nation, Michael lived in a remote location with no electricity on the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. Michael lives in Denver and enjoys skiing, camping, and seeing live music in his free time.

Representative Matters

Prosecute water court applications seeking new and changing existing water rights on behalf of a variety of clients.

Represent parties to rulemaking proceedings before the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.

Litigate appeals of water court and agency decisions, including before the Colorado Supreme Court.

Assist with moving forward state and federal water related legislation.

Draft agreements involving water rights for public entities and private landowners and developers.

Provide general counsel advice to Colorado ditch companies.

Insights and Activities

  • Panelist, “The Poverty Penalty: America’s Overuse of Fines and Fees,” University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, University of Michigan Law School, January 2021
  • Author, “Tribal courts should abolish cash bail,” High Country News, July 2020


Recent Articles

Water Rights Due Diligence – Is There “Legal” and “Physical” Water Available on the Property You Want to Buy?

When purchasing a parcel of land—whether a primary residence, vacation home, industrial complex, or working ranch—the existence or non-existence of water rights, and the characteristics and elements of any such ... Read More

Biden Administration Redefines “Waters of the United States”

On January 18, 2023, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (collectively, the “Agencies”) finalized a rule (2023 Rule) redefining how the Agencies interpret ... Read More

Colorado Water Quality Control Division Proposes New Nutrient Water Quality Standards for Lakes and Reservoirs Across the State

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) has proposed significant revisions to the nutrient water quality regulations for lakes and reservoirs across the State. ... Read More

The Colorado Division of Water Resources Will Now Require Augmentation Plans for Certain Water Exchanges

In a June 10, 2022, memorandum (the “Memo”), the Colorado Division of Water Resources (DWR) summarized the agency’s position on water court applications for water exchanges involving wells pumping from ... Read More

Five Tips for Colorado Ditch Companies

As spring arrives in Colorado, ditch companies across the state will begin running their ditches for the benefit of their shareholders and other water users. Like most arid Western states, ... Read More


  • University of Colorado Law School (J.D., 2015)
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (B.A., 2011)


  • Colorado