CARLSBAD — Jim Brown has always loved water — everything about it.
He was an avid swimmer and surfer growing up in Hermosa Beach.
After returning from Vietnam, he started a roofing company where he specialized in keeping water out of homes — where it’s not supposed to be.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina he traveled to New Orleans and Gulfport, Miss., six times to teach mold mitigation to distressed homeowners.
After retiring last year Brown decided to do something he always wanted to do: volunteer with the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation.
“I’ve lived here for 30 years and have seen Batiquitos turn from a dry lake to a picturesque lagoon that’s become a nursery for plants and animals,” he said. “I wanted to get involved in water issues here at home and help preserve and enhance the area.”
Brown began by enrolling in the foundation’s eight-week docent training.
“I learned about the Indians, the history and the flora and fauna of the lagoon,” he said. “It was the best schooling I ever got on a subject.”
Afterward he became a docent and watershed captain. When the foundation entered into a partnership with San Diego Coastkeepers to collect samples for their water monitoring program, Brown didn’t hesitate to volunteer.
Coastkeepers is San Diego’s official agency of the international Waterkeeper Alliance, which works to protect the world’s waterways. Volunteers like Brown gather data at 80 sites throughout the county to enable Coastkeepers to acquire a comprehensive and objective understanding of regional water quality issues.
Every month Brown collects samples of water at the bank of San Marcos Creek and Encinitas Creek. There is a uniform protocol he’s required to follow when he tests for water temperature and speed as well as pH, salinity and depleted oxygen. Afterwards he drives the sample to San Diego Coastkeepers to test for bacteria, contaminants and metals from runoff.
Already Brown has become a legend of sorts at Coastkeepers.
“For over a year now, Jim has participated in SDCK’s Water Monitoring Program, testing inland and lagoon waterways in 10 of 11 of San Diego County’s diverse watersheds,” said lab manager Justin Hohn. “Jim takes environmental stewardship to a rock star level. He is technically like Jimmy Page on guitar while in the lab and field, and wails like Page’s vocals, spreading the critical message of water issues in San Diego.”
Brown hopes his work will make a difference.
“After Vietnam, I said the next wars would be about water not oil,” he predicted. “Maybe my efforts here will help diffuse some of those tensions.” He adds that there’s plenty of water, it’s just not clean.
“If we control our water and keep it clean, and available, we won’t have reason to argue,” he said. “Once we are able to produce clean water, maybe we can share our techniques with other countries as partners.”
For more information about San Diego Coastkeepers, visit sdcoastkeeper.org or call (619) 758-7743. To learn more about the Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, visit batiquitosfoundation.org or call (760) 931-0800.