Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Oct 2018

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 06/03/2024

Project Features

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Utuneni Village is a calm and fairly vegetated rural area whose terrain is graded with red fertile soil. The houses are made of red bricks and are somewhat modern. However, among the homesteads we visited, not all the floors were cemented.

There are many occupations in the area but the most common are farming and casual labor. The young men mostly resort to casual labor where they work on other people's farms or they work as constructors and are paid on a daily basis.

On an average day, the women wake up at 6am, go to fetch water, and then prepare breakfast for the family as the children prepare for school. The men go to the farm to get grass for the livestock and prepare to run errands.

Errands that are most common are farming, taking farm products to the market, and feeding the livestock. During the day, the women wash the family’s clothes, tidy up the house, washes utensils and prepare lunch as well as supper for the family. They also have the community meetings such as fellowship and self-help group meetings during the day.


Community members walk up to an hour to reach the spring near the Kinyongo River. Long lines at the water source mean people sometimes wait up to an hour to fetch the water once they have arrived.

The spring water is always crowded since its the sole water point in the community during the dry season. Some families enlist donkeys to help carry the water. Those who cannot afford the assistance usually can only carry one jerrycan of water at a time.

"We struggle a lot to fetch water from this spring but we have no option. It is very far," said Mrs. Esther Mutheu said.

"The problem is that it is usually overcrowded and since it's the only source of water we have we have to be patient."

The water is not safe for drinking since the source is not protected, thus posing a high risk of contracting typhoid, amoeba and other waterborne diseases. The water is especially prone to harbor all kinds of pollutants during the rainy season.

"Typhoid is the most common because people rarely treat their water here, only a few people have that knowledge and patience," Mrs. Mutheu said.


The members of these homesteads posses some of the structures needed for good hygiene such as latrines and bathing stations. Fewer than half of homes in the community have latrines, but many will share with their neighbors.

In one of the homesteads observed, the bathroom did not have a door instead they put sacks on the door area. The latrines are rarely cleaned since there is no nearby water source - hence emitting foul smells. And there are no handwashing stations near the latrines. People opt to use ash as a cleaning technique because water is a scarce commodity.

What we plan to do about it:

Our main entry point into Utuneni Community has been the Ngwatanio Ya Kinyongo Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 44 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 train Utuneni Community on hygiene and sanitation practices. 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 sessions together.

Sand Dam

Building this sand dam at a spot along the sandy riverbed 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 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 Utuneni.

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

July, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Utuneni 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 Utuneni, 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: Utuneni Community

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

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

October, 2018: Utuneni Community Sand Dam Complete

Utuneni 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.

New Knowledge

Field Officer Paulson Mukonzi worked to organize a sanitation and hygiene training with the community. Once dates were set, he reached out to the self-help group chairman who informed other members of the community. The training was held at the homestead of Mr. Benjamin Muindi.

Attendance was as expected, and a lot of the group members were eager to learn about new hygiene practices and behaviors. The area chief was also present and was very much impressed, saying that it was the first time he saw such a training held in his area.

The trainer, Veronica Matolo, organized topics by what we observed and heard during our tour of the community. She highlighted water treatment methods, dish racks, water point care, food preparation and storage, latrines, handwashing, and general household hygiene.

We taught how to build a tippy tap to use for washing hands.

Participants particularly enjoyed creating a seasonal calendar together in groups. This had them identifying the problems they most commonly contend with, and what they believe to be the causes. We were able to post these calendars on our easel up front and teach everyone about ways to prevent the spread of these diseases.

Soapmaking was another great activity, for which the group worked together to follow our recipe to make 40 liters of soap. They are excited to take this recipe back home and make their own soap to sell in the local market. Having this liquid soap around will improve the hygiene and sanitation standards at home, too!

This group was intensely involved in their learning, which was very encouraging for our trainers!

"The training will be of great help to us since this kind of training we’ve had for three days has never been held. Not in our group, and not in the entire village," shared Mr. Benson Mutua.

"Incidences of diseases will be minimized because we have learned how to prevent them through different hygiene practices."

Sand Dam

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.

Some of the stones gathered for sand dam construction.

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 26.5 meters long and 4.7 meters high and took 550 bags of cement to build.

Sand dam construction was undertaken simultaneously with the construction of a hand-dug well which gives 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.

"This water project is a dream coming true to the majority of us within this village. Everyone is happy, as water problems will be eased by having this water point at the center of our village," shared Mr. Mutua.

"Community members are in high spirits to work on more projects as the benefits of having an unlimited clean water supply close to our homes will be felt by everyone."

August, 2018: Utuneni Community Project Underway

A clean water shortage around Utuneni Community drains people's time, energy, and health. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a sand dam to bring water to this extremely arid region.

Get to know this community 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: Utuneni Community

September, 2019

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

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Utuneni Community 1A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Utuneni Community 1A 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 community members in Utuneni village are basking in the abundance of water attained at the shallow well constructed alongside the sand dam a year ago.

"It takes less than 10 minutes to fetch water from the shallow well. The water is very fresh for drinking and cooking. Household chores are done easily and faster," said Angela Muema.

Utuneni community members have been getting clean drinking water which is fresh and contains no salinity - a problem they encountered with their previous water sources. The distance covered to fetch water has been reduced tremendously and a large group of people from the community can now access the water source.

"We used to walk between 4 and 5 kilometers daily in order to fetch a 20-liter jerrycan of water. Now we walk for less than a kilometer," said Benson Mutua, Chair of the water committee.

"We are now able to save money because we used to have to buy jerrycans of salty water from the previous source. Now, the water we drink is very fresh and has been flowing throughout the year."

The environment in Utuneni has also changed for the better. It is visibly greener. Water flows throughout the year and the self-help group members are earning an income from selling water to other community members. The water sales business booms during the drought period because the water source is at the center of the village. The group is determined to use the income they make from the water sales to establish a lending program so they can pay for things that will help improve their lives.

"We are very proud of ourselves for the efforts we put in towards the construction of this project," said Mr. Mutua.

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 Utuneni Community 1A 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 Utuneni Community 1A – 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.


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