Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 436 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2018

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/02/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

This is the third year we have worked with Karuli Community and the Kyeni kya Karuli self-help group. Two dams and two wells have been constructed, giving people access to safe water for drinking and a source for irrigating their crops.

"The water sources that have so far been implemented have helped us in accessing clean water. This is helping to improve the levels of hygiene of sanitation as people now wash hands and maintain good practices among ourselves," Mrs. Sarah Muimi said to us.

However, many people still must walk more than a mile each way to access the new wells and benefit from the dams. So we plan to construct another well and dam to ensure that everyone has safe water nearby.

Go here to view previous projects in the community and see their progress over the past few years.

This self-help group is in the third year of our five-year development program. They were trained during the construction of their first successful sand dam, and have grown immensely since then.

Today, nearly all households have a pit latrine. Open defecation is no longer an issue in this community. More than 75% have bathing shelters, handwashing stations, and dish racks and clotheslines. The handwashing stations even have soap!

The families who have made these improvements say that they’ve seen improvements in health, too.

Kyeni kya Karuli Self-Help Group was formed in the year 1978. The group members come from two villages: Waita Town with a population of 280 people, and Karuli Village with a population of 156 people.

The purpose of the group was to tackle food insecurity and water shortage through the area of both resources. There was a major famine and drought at that time that caused a huge loss of livestock. The massive losses pushed many into poverty.

The members of this group mean to support each other in every way possible. Soon after its start in 1983, the group was able to finish its first sand dam. However, because of weak structural design, the dam collapsed under the heavy storm rains of 1997. During the years between 1983 and 1997, the group’s sand dam made water more accessible to farmers, and in turn provided more food. With its loss, food and water shortage threatened families once again.

What we plan to do about it:

Our main entry point into Karuli Community has been the Kyeni Kya Karuli Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 39 farming households that are working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. These members will be our hands and feet in both constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone.


We’re going to continue training Karuli Community on hygiene and sanitation practices. Though our visits to households were encouraging, we want to ensure that community members are practicing the day to day habits we’re not able to observe. Food hygiene, water hygiene and treatment, personal hygiene and handwashing will all be a focus during our next review.

Sand Dam

Building this sand dam at a spot further down the river will bring water closer to hundreds of other people. After the community picked the spot, our technical team went in and proved the viability by finding a good foundation of bedrock. Now, our engineers are busy drawing up the blueprints. We estimate the dam will be 31 meters long and 2.8 meters high.

We are unified with this community to address the water shortage. As more sand dams are built, the environment will continue to transform. As the sand dams mature and build up more sand, the water tables will rise. Along with these sand dams, hand-dug wells (check out the hand-dug well being installed next to this dam) will be installed to give locals a good, safe way to access that water.

With these projects, clean water will be brought closer to hundreds living around Karuli.

This project is a part of our shared program with Africa Sand Dam Foundation. Our team is pleased to provide the reports for this project (edited for readability) thanks to the hard work of our friends in Kenya.

Project Updates

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Grace Muimi

This post is part of a new series by The Water Project meant to highlight the perspectives and experiences of the people we serve and how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting them. We invite you to read more of their stories here.

Our team recently visited Waita Community to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point. Shortly after, we returned to check in on the community, offer a COVID-19 refresher training, and ask how the pandemic is affecting their lives.

Grace Muimi

It was during this most recent visit that Grace Muimi shared her story of how the coronavirus has impacted her his life.

Field Officer Lilian Mutheu met Grace outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Lilian and Grace observed social distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Grace's story, in her own words. / Their questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.

What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water point?

"Water has been available for hand washing, cooking, and all domestic issues. During this COVID 19 pandemic, we have been advised to avoid crowded places. If we didn't have this project, we'd be queuing at other water points, and it is risky to contract the virus."

Grace at the well.

How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?

"Water is available for regular hand washing as advised by the ministry of health, drinking, and general cleaning."

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya, has fetching water changed for you because of restrictions, new rules, or your concerns about the virus?

"Yeah, things have changed because we have to keep a social distance at the water points. We used to meet there as groups and chat for a while before leaving. Nowadays, we rarely meet, and we don't even know how things are going on in our area."

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

"My family is highly affected since I have five kids, two are affected because they are candidates, and they hoped to finish their high school this year, and they are now almost discouraged. They no longer have the motivation to read because they are not sure if this year they will go back to school. I am afraid the kids will not perform well in their exams."

What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

"We were planning to do a wedding before the pandemic with my husband in May, but tables turned, and here we are. We cannot have a wedding because the churches were closed. My husband lost his job, and he's currently at home."

Handwashing at COVID training

What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community took to stop the spread of the virus?

"In the projects we work on, we make sure that we have a tippy tap and soap for handwashing during the activities we do here."

What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?

"Churches being open and public transport."

Grace fetches water.

What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?

"I'm looking forward to Schools to be fully operational."

When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Grace listed the radio and our team's sensitization training.

What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?

"The team reminded us of social distancing and proper handwashing."

May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Karuli Community

Our teams are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us in our fight against the virus while maintaining access to clean, reliable water.

We are carrying out awareness and prevention trainings on the virus in every community we serve. Very often, our teams are the first (and only) to bring news and information of the virus to rural communities like Karuli, Kenya.

We trained community members on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19.

Due to public gathering concerns, we worked with trusted community leaders to gather a select group of community members who would then relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.

We covered essential hygiene lessons:

- Demonstrations on how to build a simple handwashing station

- Proper handwashing technique

- The importance of using soap and clean water for handwashing

- Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces including at the water point.

We covered COVID-19-specific guidance in line with national and international standards:

- Information on the symptoms and transmission routes of COVID-19

- What social distancing is and how to practice it

- How to cough into an elbow

- Alternative ways to greet people without handshakes, fist bumps, etc.

- How to make and properly wear a facemask.

During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s water point.

Due to the rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19, we also dedicated time to a question and answer session to help debunk rumors about the disease and provide extra information where needed.

Water access, sanitation, and hygiene are at the crux of disease prevention. You can directly support our work on the frontlines of COVID-19 prevention in all of the communities we serve while maintaining their access to safe, clean, and reliable water.

October, 2019: Giving Update: Karuli Community

A year ago, your generous donation helped Karuli Community in Kenya access clean water.

There’s an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Karuli. Month after month, their giving supports ongoing sustainability programs that help this community maintain access to safe, reliable water. Read more…

December, 2018: Karuli Community Sand Dam Complete

Karuli Community, Kenya now has a new source of water thanks to your donation. A new dam was constructed on the riverbed, which will build up sand to raise the water table and naturally filter water. Community members also attended hygiene and sanitation training, and plan to share what they learned with their families and neighbors.

Sand Dam

"This is an amazing project whose impact will be felt across the village. It will help in bringing clean water close to many community members within the village," said Mrs. Serah Miumi.

"We are very happy for having completed it through hard work and commitment from both men and women, for all of us understand its importance to our overall water access."

The Process:

The community members collected all of the local materials like rocks and sand that were required for successful completion of the dam. They also provided unskilled labor to support our artisans. The collection of raw construction materials takes longer than the actual construction. For a super large sand dam, materials collection could take up to four months.

Siting and technical designs were drawn and presented to the Water Resources Management Authority and a survey sent to the National Environment Management Authority for approval before construction started. Once approved, we established firm bedrock at the base of the sand dam wall. In the absence of good bedrock, excavation is done up to a depth at which the technical team is satisfied that the ground is firm enough to stop seepage.

Then mortar (a mixture of sand, cement, and water) is mixed and heaped into the foundation. Rocks are heaped into the mortar once there is enough to hold. Barbed wire and twisted bar are used to reinforce the mixture. Once the foundation is complete, a skeleton of timber is built to hold the sludge and rocks up above ground level. The process is then repeated until a sufficient height, width and length are built up. The vertical timber beams are dismantled and the dam is left to cure.

As soon as it rains, the dam will begin to build up sand and store water. With this water, the surrounding landscape will become lush and fertile.

It could take up to three years of rain (because sometimes it only rains once a year!) for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity. It is 42.65 meters long and 4.1 meters high and took 305 bags of cement to build.

Sand dam construction was undertaken simultaneously with the construction of a hand-dug well that will give community members a safe method of drawing water. As the sand dam matures and stores more sand, a huge supply of water will be available for drinking from the adjacent hand-dug well.

To see that hand-dug well, click here.

New Knowledge

Our main contact for the Kyeni kya Karuli Self-Help Group is Austin Mumo. He is the field officer responsible for groups in the Waita region. Mr. Mumo worked with the group chairman, who in turn informed the community members on a date and venue for hygiene and sanitation training. The training was held at the homestead of Rose Muimi, a group member.

Trainer Veronica Matolo arrived to find a good attendance of 24. It was a sunny day of training and there was not enough shade. As the sun moved, we moved our chairs into the shade again. The homestead wasn't ideal because of a busy road nearby, so it took extra concentration for us to teach and the participants to learn.

Every attendee was very willing to take part in the training and learn new concepts. Women generally expressed more interest in learning the different ways of maintaining high levels of cleanliness at the homesteads, since women are traditionally seen as those most responsible for water and hygiene-related activities.

Some of the topics and activities included:

- a walk around the community to identify problem areas
- demonstrations to show how easily water is polluted
- water treatment
- calculating waste vs. the current budget spent treating diseases caused by improperly disposed-of waste
- importance of latrines
- how to make soap

Group members were taught how to follow the soap recipe we provided, and each took turns mixing.

Participants appreciated what they learned during the walk around their community. This walk helped them identify hidden places where families without latrines are using the bathroom. Waste that is improperly disposed of is easily spread throughout the community and contaminates water sources. The community is now thinking about building latrines along the path to the water point to make sure waste is kept away from their water.

Identifying sources of contamination in the community

But because of this newfound knowledge about how easily water is contaminated, people were particularly interested in water treatment methods. They learned the pros and cons of each method and are excited to share these with their neighbors. Most importantly, they are excited to work with their neighbors to get 100% latrine coverage.

"I think that today's training was the best among all the trainings that we have ever had on hygiene. This training will not only change our own lives but also the entire community. We will train the other members of our community on the dangers of open defecation and deal with anyone found doing open defecation," promised Mr. Mwenga Mwinzi.

"Water-related diseases will reduce at a greater rate since now we are empowered."

June, 2018: Scheduling in Karuli Community

Everyone in Karuli is excited about their new sand dam. Timing is very important as we ensure that everyone is ready for these big changes! The field officers and local leaders have agreed that the right time for sand dam construction and training will be over the next few months. The sand dam is a huge undertaking. We had previously scheduled this project for September but have modified that date to reflect the planning change made by the team. Thank you for standing with us as we continue work in Karuli.

We're always open to conversation about our process and are happy to answer your questions. And, if you get a notice like this – it’s actually further proof your gifts are being carefully used towards a water project that lasts.

May, 2018: Karuli Community Sand Dam Project Underway

A clean water shortage around Karuli Community still affects hundreds of lives, draining time, energy, and health. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

Get to know Karuli through the introduction and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with more good news!

Project Photos

Project Type

Sand dams are huge, impressive structures built into the riverbeds of seasonal rivers (rivers that disappear every year during dry seasons). Instead of holding back a reservoir of water like a traditional dam would, sand dams accumulate a reservoir of silt and sand. Once the rain comes, the sand will capture 1-3% of the river’s flow, allowing most of the water to pass over. Then, we construct shallow wells on the riverbank to provide water even when the river has dried up, thanks to new groundwater reserves. Learn more here!

Giving Update: Karuli Community Sand Dam

October, 2019

A year ago, your generous donation helped Karuli Community in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Rose Muimi. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Karuli Community 3A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Karuli Community 3A maintain access to safe, reliable water. Together, they keep The Water Promise.

We’re confident you'll love joining this world-changing group committed to sustainability!

The availability of clean water from the sand dam and well constructed last year has led to significant improvements in Karuli Community.

"We are no longer walking for the long distances in search of water since the shallow well has been providing us with clean water for drinking and domestic use. The available water has been sweet and clean for drinking," said Rose Muimi, a member of the self-help group that constructed the sand dam and well a year ago.

Beth Kivua, another member in the self-help group, agreed with Ms. Muimi noting that it is now actually fun to fetch water because it is so easy.

"Fetching water has been reduced to a fun activity and simple task as water is found within the village in less than 10 minutes walking distance from my home," she said.

"There [are] no long lines or long waiting hours at the water point since the flow has been steady and the pumping system is easy to operate."

Community members are now embracing tree planting projects using water from the water project in a bid to boost vegetation cover and make the environment beautiful. The immediate environment looks great with the community members very happy to be beneficiaries of this amazing water project.

In addition, the availability of water from the nearby well has led to better hygiene and sanitation across Karuli.

"The levels of cleanliness and hygiene within households have improved and this is helping in the prevention of diseases associated with poor hygiene standards," said Ms. Muimi.

Navigating through intense dry spells, performing preventative maintenance, conducting quality repairs when needed and continuing to assist community leaders to manage water points are all normal parts of keeping projects sustainable. The Water Promise community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Karuli Community 3A maintain access to safe, reliable water.

We’d love for you to join this world-changing group committed to sustainability.

The most impactful way to continue your support of Karuli Community 3A – and hundreds of other places just like this – is by joining our community of monthly givers.

Your monthly giving will help provide clean water, every month... keeping The Water Promise.


Project Sponsor - Estate of Dianne Cunningham