NEWS WORTH NOTING: DWR Commissions Its New Research Vessel; Water Community Submits Comments on Draft Long-Term Conservation Framework

DWR Commissions Its New Research Vessel; the Sentinel Will Be at Forefront of Water Quality

From the Department of Water Resources:

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today commissioned a new research vessel as a state-of-the-art replacement for the San Carlos, which since America’s bicentennial year has been monitoring water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and upper San Francisco Estuary.

The Sentinel is a floating laboratory whose mission is to protect water quality. The flagship of DWR’s Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) enables staff to conduct water quality, nutrient and lower trophic (phytoplankton, zooplankton and benthos) monitoring of the Delta. The research vessel plays a critical role helping to meet water quality objectives and the mandated requirements of biological opinions issued by the courts to guide water quality issues in the Delta.

The Sentinel was named by DWR Director Mark W. Cowin, who is retiring at month’s end after a 36-year career at the Department. Cowin named the vessel to honor the late Laura King Moon, DWR’s former Chief Deputy Director who passed away in 2015. “Laura King Moon worked tirelessly as a guardian of California’s water supply and its environment,” Cowin said. “This new research vessel is dedicated in her memory.” Moon was an environmental champion who dedicated her 38-year career to resource and water policy.

The Sentinel’s commissioning took place aboard the historic Delta King on the Sacramento River in the Old Sacramento Historic District. During the ceremony, Cowin drew a comparison between the era of the Delta King’s commissioning in the 1920’s and the current era. “We are experiencing a period of great change – climate change, political change and changes in water management,” he said. “I think we can agree that the Sentinel is a welcome change.”

The Sentinel replaces the San Carlos, which provided valuable service for the past 40 years gathering information that informed water quality analysis, biological opinions and State Water Project (SWP) decisions. Cowin said it was time for a “new guardian of the Delta waters to greet new challenges.” Design and construction of the Sentinel was accomplished with funding from the SWP’s 29 contractors. The construction project began in February 2015, and the vessel was launched by builder Vigor Industrial of Seattle, WA, in October 2016. Sea trials have been occurring since the launch.

The Sentinel’s characteristics:

  • Length – 60 feet
  • Beam – 24 feet
  • Draft – 3 feet 6 inches
  • Weight – 36 tons
  • Engines – twin Cummins QSB 6.7 conventional propulsion – 419 HP
  • Speed – 20 knots
  • 14-foot work skiff with 30 HP motor
  • Overnight accommodations for five people
  • Meets U.S. Coast Guard’s safety regulations for passenger vessels
  • Lab Area – 266 square feet
  • Aft deck work area – 337 square feet
  • Air Conditioned
  • Lab Raw water manifold with remote value operations
  • 30 Local Area Network (LAN) connections
  • 4G wireless
  • Three 3,300-pound-capacity cranes, one with direct connection to the Lab

Water Community Submits Comments on Draft Long-Term Conservation Framework

From the Association of California Water Agencies:

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) today submitted comments signed by 114 urban water suppliers regarding a draft framework aimed at redefining water conservation for both the urban and agricultural sectors.

The letter reflects input from hundreds of urban water agencies and builds on a previously submitted Oct. 18 letter with detailed recommendations for the framework, which was released Nov. 30 by the California Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Public Utilities Commission, California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Energy Commission.

In the joint comment letter prepared by ACWA, the water community states its commitment to long-term water-use efficiency. It voices concern, however, with giving state agencies broad authority to determine future water-use budgets or performance measures without stakeholder input.

“We believe all new water-use target setting efforts must include a formal stakeholder involvement process, allowing for input on technical considerations and the potential for unintended consequences,” the letter states.

“The conservation framework must take into account the One Water policy perspective, seeking a balanced and integrated approach to sustainable water management. Water sustainability and drought resilience must be measured in terms of BOTH water-use efficiency and the development of new supplies and storage.”

Specific recommendations from the water community include creating an alternative target-setting approach that can be customized to unique local conditions, removing recycled water for indoor or CII uses from water production / use calculations for determining compliance with 2025 targets, and adding a provision for local variances to accommodate unique uses, such as providing water for large animals, swamp coolers and food production, and adding language clearly stating the state’s intent to preserve existing water rights.

The comment letter is available on ACWA’s website here. ACWA also submitted a separate comment letter to convey the association’s input on the agricultural supplier elements of the draft framework document.


The draft framework report, “Making Conservation a California Way of Life” November 2016 Public Review Draft, outlines a process for developing new permanent urban water use targets beyond the current “20×2020” requirements and includes new requirements for water shortage contingency plans and enhanced leak detection and repair.

On the agricultural side, water districts serving 10,000 acres or more will be required to prepare updated Agricultural Water Management Plans that quantify water use efficiency and include plans for water supply shortages.

Some of the actions described in the draft plan will require legislation to provide new or expanded state authority. Others can be implemented under existing authorities. The recommendations are intended to achieve the main objectives of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Executive Order B-37-16, which was issued May 9.

State agencies are scheduled to release a final framework document by Jan. 20.


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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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