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Meet Brook Sarson of Catching H2O/H2OME

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brook Sarson.

Brook, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I spent a lot of time hiking and camping in the Sierra’s as a girl. Also, spent part of my childhood in Bishop, CA and was very aware of water wars there.  After high school I pursued degrees in Electrical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from the University of the Pacific in Stockton.  After working in the engineering field for a few years I had my two sons.  When I wanted to reenter the workforce, I decided I wanted to do something that mattered for the world they were growing up in.

I became more aware of the complexities of water issues in the west after reading Dam Nation, by Laura Allen and reading Cadillac Desert. After traveling to Australia and taking a Permaculture Design Course in Arizona, I realized that there are simple ways for all of us to be in control of water supply and felt frustrated by the lack of awareness in the community and the government.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When I first started, I had a vision of wanting to be a resource to my community. I did not know anything about business, contracting, or plumbing.

I partnered with a few professionals to get the basics, and made some mistakes, and felt very lonely because at the time there wasn’t really anyone doing what I was doing here in San Diego. I felt grateful I could ask some of my teachers questions, but mostly I had to learn the ropes myself.

Originally, I thought I would get involved with water management bureaucracy and government agencies to try and get things changed at the top. But at that time greywater, in particular, was taboo and rainwater was just being played around with on very small scales in the water agencies.

I realized quickly that there was very little influence I could have in that complicated bureaucracy when I was presenting a solution that didn’t require a big investment and wasn’t super lucrative for any of the big industry players who normally get a change to happen through lobbying.

So I decided to put all of my attention to shifting the mindset from the bottom up by creating an educational baseline.  I began talking to the people who wanted to hear what I had to say and were excited to then talk to their neighbors, friends, and colleagues.  I also knew it was important to lead by example so I implemented all the strategies I wanted to showcase at my own home and then opened it up for monthly tours.

Since I was a single mom when I first started, it was complicated for me to show up all the places I needed to be.  There was a lot I couldn’t be part of because of bed times and such, but it was rewarding to bring my kids with me when I could on consultations, or to speaking events or workshops. I felt proud having my kids know that I was doing something that mattered and that I was engaged with the community.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Catching H2O/H2OME – what should we know?
I started H2OME in 2008 to be a resource for water conservation for my community. In 2017 I went into partnership with Rosalind Hasselbeck and CatchingH2o.

We specialize in Water Harvesting, which is rainwater and greywater catchment.

I’m proud of the value that our company adds to the community. We employee about half a dozen people who make a living wage and care about the work they are doing. We work in cooperation rather than competition with our peers and colleagues, creating a web of knowledge. Over the last 10 years, I personally have installed over 300 greywater water systems, diverting hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from wastewater treatment facilities and into landscapes that have been able to flourish with fruit trees and other plants that create habitat for our local ecology despite drought conditions.

I have installed over 250,000 gallons of rainwater storage in San Diego for hundreds of families to grow vegetables in their own backyards, further reducing their water footprint, and eliminating stormwater pollution. I have taught and empowered thousands of people through hands-on installation workshops, talks, Permaculture Classes, and elementary through college age students the value and importance of using these simple techniques to contribute to localizing water.

I’m proud of my contribution to my community, and now partnering with a woman who has added so much value in her own right, I think we have a holistic package to create real change in water infrastructure in San Diego.

Although I, personally, haven’t felt stifled by being a woman in a male-dominated industry, I have felt the value and importance of showing up as a woman and generating a nuanced energy in the contracting field for others to feel empowered by.  I know it’s important to shift into this new culture where future generations of men and women will have a better container for workplace conversations.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I love and care deeply for the people, nature, the planet. I approach all my work with this eye of compassion in order to arrive at a solution that works for all. I enjoy meeting and working with people.

On a different note, my engineering training helps me think through problems in unique ways which allow me to create efficiencies.  I view the problems I encounter as opportunities rather than road blocks.

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