The Safe WaTER Group at San Diego State University uses fundamental and applied research to develop sustainable water and sanitation solutions that meet local and regional needs in Southern California and that address national and international priorities such as the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges for Engineering, the Environmental Engineering Grand Challenges, and the goals established in the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Our vision. Safe WaTER stands for Safe Waste-To-Energy and Resources. The Safe WaTER vision is that materials historically considered to be “waste” can be safely reclaimed as useful resources (e.g. water, nutrients, and energy).

Our commitment to transdisciplinary work. We acknowledge that the solutions required to meet today’s development challenges cannot be solved from within a single discipline. They must be collaborative efforts that transcend disciplinary boundaries. We pursue collaborations from colleagues in the fields of biology, public health, anthropology, mathematics and statistics, environmental science, and other disciplines.

Our areas of research. We engage in a variety of research projects as long as the objectives align with our Safe WaTER vision, but our primary areas of interest are:

  • Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) for development
  • Resource recovery from wastewater and biosolids
  • Health-related microbiology
  • Microbial risk assessment
  • Open data and analytics
  • Applied statistics for engineering and microbiology

Our resources. We are located on the fourth floor of the Engineering building at San Diego State University, in Room E-423, where we have the following resources:

  • The Water Microbiology Lab. This 700-square-foot facility has work areas to accommodate up to 9 students at a time. Construction of the laboratory was completed in July 2017, and as such it is still in the process of being equipped internally. Major equipment to be purchased within the next three years includes a biosafety cabinet, incubators, -80°C freezer, benchtop centrifuge, microcentrifuge, PCR thermocycler, PCR workstation, real-time PCR (qPCR) system, equipment for gel electrophoresis, and a fluorescence microscope. There also plans to acquire Biosafety Level (BSL) 2 status to enable work with some enteric pathogens. This lab will be used to conduct experimental studies.


  • The Statistical Tools for Environmental Engineering Research (STEER) Computer Lab. This 174-square-foot computer lab has three workstations, and is located adjacent to the Water Microbiology laboratory. This lab will be used to develop modeling and statistics solutions to help interpret data from environmental engineering and microbiology research. The type of projects performed in this lab include the development and application of statistical tools using likelihood, frequentist and Bayesian frameworks, quantitative models for microbial risk assessments, data visualization and analytics tools, and bioinformatics.