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Posts Tagged ‘Aquafornia’

In praise of “Aqua Blog Maven”

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 2, 2013

Emily Green, environmental writer for the LA Times and owner/editor of the popular Chance of Rain blog, has given me permission to reprint her wonderful tribute to Chris Austin, founder of the Aquafornia California water news blog.


Chris Austin@Owens Lake

“Aquafornia” founder Chris Austin photographs the salt crust of Owens Dry Lake in the Eastern Sierra.

Last week Aquafornia quietly changed editorship. Its founder, Chris Austin, stepped aside and the Water Education Foundation, the blog’s owner since 2010, took over compilation. This post is to thank Austin, known better around the Internet as “Aqua Blog Maven,” for creating a website that every day for the last five and a half years provided a dazzlingly comprehensive news feed linking to stories big and small, sober and silly, about water in California.

Her accomplishment demands recognition for many reasons, not least because when Austin started the blog in April 2007, she did it unpaid. At the time she was a citizen journalist writing about local issues of Santa Clarita, the northern Los Angeles County suburb where she lives with her husband Rick and two sons Joshua and Noah. Paucity of online sources about California water gave her the idea for a daily news feed that would eventually become a meticulously indexed and easily searched library.

Austin jokes that she adopted the Internet handle “Aqua Blog Maven,” later shortened to “Maven,” because “back in 2007 people didn’t blog a whole lot under their own names.” And so it was Aqua Blog Maven and not necessarily Chris Austin who became admired by members across the water world ranging from engineers to economists to utility managers to speculators to regulators to policy wonks to save-fish environmentalists to screw-fish libertarians to he-said/she-said reporters. By November 2009, as California legislators argued late into the night over a raft of hotly contested water bills, Aquafornia flashed close to real-time updates throughout the night. When last July Governor Jerry Brown unveiled plans for his twin “punnels” across the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta, Austin not only had every breaking story linked on her site, the same day she also had sought, received and published comments from every interested environmental group and water agency. That day, Aquafornia got more than 3,000 hits.

C. Austin @Fossil Falls

During a trip to Owens Lake, Austin stopped at Fossil Falls near Little Lake in Inyo County to photograph volcanic rock smoothed by glacial meltwater.

Beyond the news service, Austin produced a series of remarkable photo essays explaining the often complex workings of California’s water infrastructure, including the Los Angeles Aqueduct, State Water Project and Imperial Valley’s supply. One of her points of pride in the years she ran Aquafornia, she says, was giving voice to the Eastern Sierra communities tapped by Los Angeles, including chronicling the challenges in dust suppression and assiduously linking reports from long-ignored Inyo County papers in her news feed.

In 2008, the prestigious Water Education Foundation began sponsoring Austin’s blog. Two years later, it purchased it. As the foundation now folds editing of Aquafornia into its Sacramento office, Santa Clarita-based Austin has begun several new websites, including the generalist Maven’s Manor and the decidedly more wonkish policy report Maven’s Notebook. Any student of California water would be well advised to seek out the Notebook’s resource page.

Chris Austin isn’t going anywhere and the Water Education Foundation is no slouch, so there’s no call for an obituarist here. However, for those of us who study water, there’s no adequate way to acknowledge the curiosity that drove Austin to found Aquafornia, then the flair and stamina she showed in building it. It speaks both to the inestimable value of Aqua Blog Maven and of water itself that Austin rose daily at 4.30am to begin triaging the day’s news for her readers — even on Sundays. As Maven refines the scope of her work to serve as a policy translator for a complicated new century of water management and the Water Education Foundation takes over custody of her nifty first creation, a bow to Austin. A deep one.


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Chris Austin does Imperial Valley water with style

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 18, 2011

Chris Austin, the tireless maven for the well-known Aquafornia California water news service from the Water Education Foundation has just completed a new slideshow: From Imperial Valley to the Salton Sea: The Story of Imperial Valley’s Water.

Chris decided about a year ago to embark on a project to tell a history of the Imperial Valley and the formation of the Salton Sea in pictures.

This educational and visually stimulating show is another phase in Chris’s ongoing effort. She has travelled to conduct interviews, do research, take photographs, write, edit, get input from members of the Imperial Irrigation District, the IV Cooperative Extension Service, the Salton Sea Authority, and more.

In addition to being of interest to the community that regularly follows California water issues, the show is likely to be useful for others like college professors teaching water resources engineering and other such courses. There’s a good bibliography of resources at the end, too.

Be sure to visit her Maven’s Manor blog that contains a variety of articles and slideshows on California’s Water and other topics, and her Maven’s Photoblog which is filled with wonderful pictures and stories.

I’m embedding Chris’s slideshow below with her permission; I encourage you to switch to full-screen for best effect.



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Aquafornia’s wellspring: Chris Austin

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 2, 2010

Anyone who seriously follows California water issues knows that the Water Education Foundation’s Aquafornia blog is a leading source for “all water news pertaining to California, including climate change, Colorado River basin issues, some Nevada water news, desalination, stormwater issues, press releases, commentaries, information from elected officials and some publicity on events.”

Chris Austin, Aqua Blog Maven, is the tireless heart and soul of the blog.
She diligently finds, compiles, and presents a comprehensive view of California water news stories on a daily basis, writes virtually all the articles for the blog’s Information Desk, produces photo essays (one of her favorite activities), and more.

Chris also has a personal website, Maven’s Manor, where she is accumulating her work on water and other topics (like electricity), and sharing articles & slideshows from her travels up and down the state.

So far there’s a section of articles and slideshows on California’s Water, a “visual primer” on electricity, slideshows from Eastern California including Death Valley and the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and a link to her Maven’s Photoblog. A new project she’s working on is to tell the history of the Imperial Valley and the formation of the Salton Sea in pictures. There’s just a placeholder for that project for now, but Chris intends to cover the water & restoration issues, history, geothermal power, agriculture, and more. She’s been collecting historical photos and facts for several months now and is planning another visit to the area in January for more pictures, tours, and research.

If you aren’t already a Maven’s Manor visitor, I think you’ll enjoy having it on your list of stops.


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California State Water Project in pictures

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 9, 2010

Like building a sideways 4-lane highway

The Water Education Foundation’s news blog Aquafornia has released a fine new slide show giving a photographic overview of the State Water Project. The 203-pages of historic photos reveal details of the immense engineering undertaking that San Diego residents may not be aware of when they’re told that over 30% of their water comes from the SWP.

Click here to see the full slide show.

Perhaps that young man in the center will have a future photo-op like this?


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