WWD Honors CWEA Members Nataly Dakak and Cristina Ahmadpour as Outstanding Young Professionals

Members in the News, Women in Water

Water & Wastewater Digest’s Class of 2018 Young Professionals includes two Californians…

Nataly Dakak


Environmental Engineering Associate
City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation

Age: 25

Education: Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering from the University of California, Riverside. Master of Science in civil engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Professional accomplishments: Protecting the City of Los Angeles Public Owned Treatment Works from interference with process operations and pass-through of harmful pollutants. Acting as representative for the Industrial Waste Management Div. of the Bureau of Sanitation Biosolids Action Team to promote and ensure the production of Class A exceptional-quality biosolids. Providing training for industrial wastewater compliance inspectors across Los Angeles to reduce potable water consumption for auto-wash industries.

Best project ever: Dakak’s most memorable project involved working on a team to host the first hybrid webinar in her division. The topic covered how to optimize and maintain water reclamation systems for car washes utilizing a real-time face-to-face ,along with a virtual element that allowed broadcasting for individuals who could not attend in person.

Previous life: During her undergraduate study, Dakak served as a research assistant for developing a titanium dioxide photocatalytic membrane to mineralize new chemicals being discharged into wastewater through ultraviolet treatment, and determining optimal hydrothermal conditions to enhance photocatalytic activity of the membrane. Throughout her graduate program, she worked as an engineering intern for Hazen and Sawyer, where she collected and reviewed water quality data and production capabilities for Coachella and Indio Water Authority wells.

Greatest influence: “Mahatma Gandhi has proven that nonviolent resistance is a great way to achieve social, economic or political noncooperation. Not only did he cause an Indian independence movement, but he was great motivation for several peace and civil rights movements. Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence is a logical approach to many environmental problems. For instance, Gandhi gives me hope for protesters that use tree sitting as a peaceful form of political protest to help prevent logging of ancient forests.”

How will your generation influence the water industry? “My generation is getting rid of the ‘toilet to tap’ term and describing direct potable reuse with more innovative terms such as ‘recycled water.’ My generation is marketing and using consumer psychology to give better impressions to the mind of the consumer. The public’s perception of recycled water is increasingly being viewed as a resource rather than a waste.”

Industry aspiration: “I am currently working on my next endeavor of achieving my professional engineering licensure.”

Outside the office: “It would be fun to start a periodic board game crew at lunchtime.”

Personal passions: Barre, a ballet-inspired fitness class that incorporates ballet, yoga and pilates; hiking; cooking; traveling; environmental/water conservation; family; and self-improvement.

Hidden talent: Pac-Man.

Worst-kept secret: “Growing up I always felt bad to step on grass. I thought that the grass would eventually die if it kept being stepped on by everyone.”

Giving back: Dakak volunteers at Los Angeles Earth Day to help spread awareness on different sustainability programs within the city. She also participates in various events that encourage young grade school female students to pursue a major in science, technology, engineering or math.

Best memory: “My family tradition is to place the graduate after their graduation ceremony into the trash to sarcastically signify that you are worth trash once you obtain your academic degree. I’ve been ‘trashed’ twice in my life.”

Best advice: Policy enforcement is intricate.


Cristina J. Ahmadpour



Isle Utilities

Age: 32

Education: Bachelor of Arts in business administration, California State University. Masters of law and environmental policy, Vermont Law School.

Previous life: Commercial banker for Wells Fargo.

Personal accomplishment: Graduated law school with the highest honors while maintaining a full-time job.

Professional accomplishments: Led the commercialization of an early stage technology in the Western U.S. and Mexico. Pivoted the growth of an organization and built a strong team to keep that organization moving.

Greatest influence: “Without a doubt, the greatest influence, both personally and professionally, is my longtime friend and now husband. He challenges me to live with purpose, kindness and determination, and is my number one fan!”

Best project ever: First industrial wastewater project was at the Heinz french fry production facility.

Industry aspiration: Ahmadpour aspires to be a leader of change in the way utilities seek innovative best practices and technology solutions to increase stakeholder value. She is a collaborator and problem solver who wants to create and drive sustainable models to effectively manage water and resources with the best available tools.

Outside the office: Camping, hiking, basketball, traveling and, most recently, cycling.

Personal passions: Rueda de casino (a type of salsa dancing)

Worst-kept secret: Has Ichthyophobia, “a completely unjustified fear of fish!”

How will your generation influence the industry? “My generation graduated right around the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. We continue to witness extreme climate variability where there is a growing scientific evidence pointing to anthropogenic causes. We’re living through a time where advancements in space exploration and artificial intelligence are moving at an accelerated pace. Through our experiences, my generation will see opportunity and evaluate risk differently. As we face the ‘silver tsunami,’ we will be bold at embracing different approaches to meet the future needs of the water sector.”

Giving back: Member of various subcommittee groups for American Water Works Assn. (AWWA) and Water Environment Federation (WEF), and advises a nonprofit organization that develops projects to bring clean water to communities in developing countries.

Best memory: “One of my most memorable experiences has to be kayaking the Sava Bohinjka River (Slovenia) alongside the backdrop of the majestic Julian Alps and farm cottages of Bohinjka Valley… after a morning of paragliding at 6,000 ft!”

Best advice: “Simply know your stuff and be confident in your abilities.”