Women in Water Q&A | Melissa Lanzara

April 1, 2022

To honor Women's History Month, women in the water industry are sharing their career paths, insights and more. 


In honor of Women’s History Month, which takes place in March, SWS asked women in the industry to tell us about their careers, goals, important industry issues and more. Each week throughout March, SWS will share one Q&A with a different woman in the industry.

Name & Title: Melissa Lanzara; Senior Stormwater Inspector; Parker Design Group

SWS: Tell us about your career journey. How did you end up where you are today?

ML: I started in construction material testing with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. I started conducting erosion and sediment control Inspections with my previous company and that led me to my career now.

SWS: Why water?

ML:  I am a Pisces, so maybe water is just in my roots, but I fell in love with it in college. My class work at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia, and frequenting the James River for recreation put the water crisis at the forefront for me. I started volunteering to collect water quality samples and also planted underwater sea grass in the James River to help address the water quality issues we are facing. Water is such an integral part of your life that we have to be sure to keep our waters clean for plants, animals and humans too!

SWS: What do you think are the most pressing issues the industry is facing?

ML: In my opinion, water quality is one of the most pressing issues. With a decreasing amount of land for nutrient banks and BMPs, such as forest open space, finding innovative technology to address water quality within a small footprint is crucial.

SWS: What are your goals for both your career and in the industry?

ML: I want to continue to increase my knowledge load in this industry and learn about water quality issues everywhere and not just in Virginia. I am an advocate for educating contractors and the public about the pressing issues in the storm water industry and why it is that we care and why they should too.

SWS: What does it mean to you to be a woman in this industry?

ML: While it can be challenging to be a female in a male dominated field, I am proud to bring diversity and knowledge to the industry. People have been very accepting if you present the issue to them, educate them and then propose a solution that can help everyone in the long run.

SWS:  What media (books, TV shows, movies, games, podcasts, etc.) has had the greatest impact on you in the past year?

ML: Storm Water Solutions has been an excellent resource for education and keeping up with current events across the country. I also personally love Brené Brown for leadership advice. I loved watching “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates” on Netflix to learn about water and sanitation issues in other countries.

SWS: What advice can you give those that are new to the industry?

ML: You are in charge of your career. If you feel like you are lacking knowledge, take the class. If you feel like you can share helpful advice, get it out there! You would be surprised at what you can learn and contribute from being vulnerable and taking the plunge.