Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Dec 2018

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/01/2024

Project Features

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Uthunga 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 Uthunga 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 Uthunga 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 Uthunga.

Project Updates

October, 2019: Giving Update: Uteneni Community

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

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

December, 2018: Uthunga Community Sand Dam Project Complete

Uthunga 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

"We are very honored to be part of establishing such a massive project in our community. Accessing water has been a great challenge and this project marks the end of the water hassle in Uthunga Village," said Mr. Benson Kyuli.

"The sand dam will hold gallons of water that used to run off after the rainy seasons. We are very grateful for this project and we intend to develop our community using the water supply attained from this water project. In addition, we are happy because this is a project that will serve the community and its forthcoming generations."

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 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. All of this stone and sand compliments the tools, cement, lumber, and metal that we provide.

The bags of cement delivered to the construction site

Our engineers drew siting and technical designs 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.

Group members gathered together to hear from our artisans about their first construction tasks.

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 39.2 meters long and 3.8 meters high and took 450 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

The mobilization and planning of hygiene and sanitation training was done by the area field officer, Paulson Mukonzi. He corresponded back and forth with self-help group leadership and our trainers. After coming to a consensus on the most suitable date, the field officer informed the trainer, Veronica Matolo, and the chairman informed the group members in order for them to attend training. Training was held at the sand dam site, which was the preference of the group members.

Attendance was lower than we expected. Trainer Veronica Matolo found out there were some differences among group members concerning leadership, which had affected the coordination and functionality of the members. However, after the training, the field officer continued to meet with people to figure out the best way to resolve their issues.

Topics included:

– Identifying health problems in the community
– Investigating community practices
– Good and bad hygiene behaviors
– How germs spread
– Blocking the spread of disease
– Choosing the right improvements
– Making an action plan for the village
– Handwashing
– Soap-making

There was a big discussion about water treatment, too. This was one of the most impactful topics because all of the participants admitted that they don't treat water. They told us it was a waste of time and money. By the time we had finished a discussion about water treatment costs versus medication to treat waterborne disease, the group members agreed that boiling water is worth it.

Discussing the facilities that each household needs to have to live clean and healthy lives.

"We will change our lifestyles, especially when it comes to prevention of contracting waterborne diseases by treating the water, maintaining good food hygiene, and sustaining a clean and habitable environment," said Bernadetta Kioko.

"As a group, we plan to educate our fellow group members to ensure they have the information they missed. Most of us have had moringa on our farms for a while now although we had no idea about its uses and benefits in the treatment of water. This training has taught us a lot."

Since there was still a low latrine count during our last visit, Ms. Matolo shared the importance of having a latrine to properly dispose of waste. To have an ideal latrine, a lid also needs to be constructed to cover the pit and keep flies out. Flies are one of the major spreaders of germs!

The group was also shown how to construct a tippy tap handwashing station with a plastic container, sticks, and string. They worked together to write an action plan for how and when each household will have the facilities they need to live healthy lives.

November, 2018: Utuneni Community Sand Dam Underway

People from Utuneni Community walk a very long distance just to get dirty water from open holes in the ground. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a nearby water point and much more.

Get to know your community through the narrative 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: Uthunga Community sand dam

October, 2019

A year ago, your generous donation helped Uthunga community in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Florence Mwendwa. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Uthunga 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!

Uthunga community members are beyond excited about the fruits bore through the sand dam and hand-dug shallow well project constructed a year ago.

They are majorly applauding the reduction in the distance covered to access water and the quality of water attained this water point. The water is very fresh for drinking.

"My life has improved in the last year," said Florence Mwendwa.

"I used to wake up very early and walk to River Kinyongo which is 1 kilometer from my home to fetch water, a lot of time was wasted on queuing at the source. Now, I walk for less than 200 meters and spend at most 10 minutes to fetch five jerry cans of water."

The women from this community highlighted immense improvement on hygiene and sanitation during our recent visit. They said that an adequate supply of water has enabled them to clean their houses, latrines, and clothes on a daily basis. Food for their children is prepared on time and they are able to engage in other income-generating activities with the time they saved.

"I feel very empowered and confident in myself because I am more self-reliant than before," said Ms. Mwendwa.

Florence Mwendwa

Some 90 percent of the community members have established tippy taps for handwashing purposes, 80 percent have dug garbage pits and 100 percent have bathing shelters in their homesteads. Soapmaking is a frequent practice among the members as it helps them in sustaining cleanliness and proper hygiene.

"Cases of typhoid, amoeba and diarrhea which were very rampant are no longer being reported because people are enlightened on water treatment and the water is readily available," said Benson Mutua Kyuli, chair of the water user committee.

Men proudly stated that they are very comfortable with the site because it is near their homes and very safe for their wives to walk and fetch clean water. The members have expressed the project's ownership by the frequent check-ups of the project's functioning and also conducting repairs whenever they observe any issue. They have been enjoying a surplus supply of water throughout the year.

As a result of the harvested water, the environment has changed. Land productivity has improved due to increased water table level and the survival rate of the vegetation has increased.

"The sand dam project harvested a lot of water which has been instrumental in the farming of vegetables, kales, and tomatoes. We have witnessed extreme improvement in the standards of living in the past year. Idleness is rare because everyone is busy on their farms," Mr. Kyuli said.

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 Uthunga 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 Uthunga 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.


Project Sponsor - Pineapple Fund