Meet Colorado’s only water sommelier
Alumna Anistacia Barrak-Barber channels a love of H2O into an immersive career focused on healing and access.
You’re probably familiar with the tasks of a wine sommelier — a trained professional specializing in the nuances of wine and how to perfectly pair it with different types of food. But did you know there are also sommeliers focused on mustard, cheese, beer and even water? Anistacia Barrak-Barber is one of these, and she’s on a mission to educate and inform the public about all things water.
For Barrak-Barber, enchantment with water began early. “I grew up in the high desert of New Mexico with a noteworthy enthusiasm for water,” she said. “I carried it with me through school and my documentary film career and enjoyed a special passion for sacred springs and taking the waters (using water for health purposes).”
After 25 years in documentary filmmaking, Barrak-Barber decided it was time for a career change but wasn’t sure what that could look like. She started reflecting on what she loved and had accomplished, and she realized that water was the thread woven through every chapter.
Barrak-Barber researched careers in water and learned of the sommelier certification, then took a trip in 2017 to a German academy to obtain that certification. When she returned to the United States, she learned about the Professional Water Studies Online Certificate at Metropolitan State University of Denver. This set of noncredit courses provides students with education in history, law, management and water trends related to Colorado and the U.S. West. Barrak-Barber in 2018 became part of the first group of students to obtain the certification.
She has since earned a Columbia University Water Center Certificate, which provided her with the know-how to perform water risk assessment in the private sector. Today, Barrak-Barber is pursuing a doctorate with a focus on reputed healing waters, such as those in Lourdes, France, and Ojo Caliente, New Mexico. While she completes her studies, Barrak-Barber is also working with True Spring, a company that installs safe drinking systems around the globe.
Barrak-Barber ultimately hopes to turn her water wisdom into a career that first and foremost leads people to care about and preserve water. “It’s abundantly clear that water is our most essential resource and we’re facing a crisis with it,” she said. “If I’m touting the beauty and benefits of water, it’s also my responsibility to speak about the fact that many people don’t have access to clean drinking water, including almost 2 million Americans.”
Barrak-Barber would also like to educate people on the upbeat aspects of water through her sommelier certification. “Water has many nuances and flavors brought about from its mineral content and sources,” she explained. “Some flavor profiles can make or break a meal. If you’re eating sushi with a water that has high mineral content, for example, the water will drown out the flavors of the fish.”
Currently, water sommeliers are in demand mostly in Europe and other spots around the globe. Slowly, however, they’re making their way into high-end U.S. restaurants as well, and Barrak-Barber is perfectly positioned to take advantage of that.
No matter where she ultimately lands — whether working as a sommelier, writing a book on healing waters or educating the public on water conservation — you can be sure Barrak-Barber’s career will be steeped in water.
“Water is precious,” she said, “and I feel it’s my duty to protect it.”