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Daniel Saftner awarded prestigious Fulbright Student Scholarship

Project will increase access to safe, sustainable drinking water sources in West Africa

RENO – Daniel Saftner, a graduate research assistant at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Student Scholarship that will allow him to teach, study, and lead a project focused on increasing access to safe, sustainable drinking water sources in Maradi, Niger. 

Saftner, who is pursuing his masters in hydrogeology from the Graduate Program of Hydrologic Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno, will work in partnership with World Vision’s Niger Integrated Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Project (NI-WASH), which provides humanitarian and research assistance in countries with needs related to water, sanitation, and hygiene.

SaftnerHis project will map seasonal shifts in aquifer depths and chemical concentrations in Niger’s groundwater, as well as develop and distribute maps of that data to local people and organizations tasked with providing potable water.

"I am really looking forward to living and working with the local people to contribute to their efforts and gain their interest and support in groundwater quality monitoring and sustainability," said Saftner. 

While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, Saftner witnessed first hand the impacts of lack of access to unsafe drinking water when a student in his class collapsed from dehydration. 

"I felt helpless," said Saftner. "I knew right then that I was going to do everything I could to prevent this from happening again." 

In 2012 Saftner applied for and won a USAID (United States Agency for International Development) grant, which he and a colleague used to construct a well and install an automated groundwater pump. 

"That pump is still going today," he explained, "and it is providing clean water to more than 3,000 students who attend the school in Cameroon where I worked during my time in the Peace Corps." 

Saftner is one of over 1,900 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research, and provide expertise abroad for the 2016-2017 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields. 

"Dan’s passion for this work is incredible and this is an exciting opportunity to take what he has learned here at DRI and work with our partner NI-WASH to make a real difference to a community that faces everyday drinking water challenges that many people can hardly fathom," said Alexandra Lutz, Ph.D., Saftner’s advisor and an associate research professor of hydrogeology at DRI who also received a Fulbright Scholarship as a graduate student and has continued to work on groundwater sustainability and climate change research in West Africa for more than 10 years. 

Both Lutz and Saftner are part of a unique effort in DRI’s Center for International Water and Sustainability (CIWAS) to provide applied research and training in developing countries around the world facing WASH issues.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries that are needed to solve global challenges. 

The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the Program, which operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Fulbright Program’s establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. Since then, the Program has given more than 360,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. 

Fulbrighters address critical global challenges – from sustainable energy and climate change to public health and food security – in all areas, while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States and the world. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 54 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 82 who have received Pulitzer Prizes, and 33 who have served as a head of state or government. 

Fulbright recipients are among over 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education. 

For further information about the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State, please visit or contact the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Press Office by telephone 202-632-6452 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


About the Desert Research Institute: DRI, the nonprofit research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education, strives to be the world leader in environmental sciences through the application of knowledge and technologies to improve people’s lives throughout Nevada and the world. For more information about DRI please visit  

Media Contacts:  

Justin Broglio 

Communications Officer, Desert Research Institute 

Ph: (775) 673-7610 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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