A first-generation immigrant from El Salvador and the first in her family to graduate from college, Evelyn Cortez-Davis, P.E., is the assistant director of water operations at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the United States’ largest municipal utility. She is a civil engineer with more than 25 years of water industry experience in the areas of water conservation, water quality, pipeline design and construction, environmental compliance, recycled water, water rights, groundwater remediation, and groundwater planning. She currently leads a team to safely treat, store, and convey water to the 4 million residents in the Los Angeles Metro area.
Cortez-Davis wrote December Sky: Beyond My Undocumented Life, a book about her family’s immigration story, her fear of living as an undocumented student, and her journey to U.S. citizenship.
Her activism reflects her STEM education advocacy for nearly three decades, in which she encourages girls and other underrepresented students to pursue careers in science and engineering. She was a founding member of the K-12 outreach program of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers student chapter at the University of California, Los Angeles. As a UCLA alumna, Cortez-Davis received the university’s Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity Advocacy Award in 2006.
She represents Los Angeles on the Colorado River Board of California and served on the board of directors of the National Water Research Institute and the board of trustees of WateReuse California. She is a registered civil engineer in the state of California and a Board Certified Environmental Engineer.
This article first appeared in Society of Women Engineers Magazine.