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: 05/21/2024

Project Features

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This is the second year we have worked with Katalwa Community and the Katalwa Jipe Moyo Self-Help Group. One dam and one well have been constructed already, giving people access to safe water for drinking and a source for irrigating their crops.

"Our first project has helped in bringing clean water close to our homesteads, the sufficient water supply and the concepts learned from hygiene training are helping us in maintaining relatively high standards of cleanliness in our homesteads," Mrs. Kamene Muthwii said.

However, many people still must walk more than a mile each way to access the new well and benefit from the dams. Furthermore, a single well is not enough to supply clean water for the more than 2,000 people in this community. So we plan to construct another well and dam to ensure that everyone has safe water nearby.

This self-help group works with us as a part of a five-year development program. They were trained during the construction of their first successful sand dam, and have grown immensely since then.

The efforts are working. Nearly half of households in the community now have pit latrines. Due to the availability of water provided by their first sand dam, the members are keen on their sanitation as they wash their toilets frequently. In both the homesteads that we visited they have water tanks in their compounds which provide sufficient water for cleanliness.

Nearly all homes adopted other sanitation facilities, such as handwashing stations, dish racks, animal pens and more. There is still work to be done in terms of using garbage pits.

On an average day for the community members, the women and children wake up at 6am. The women usually go fetch water and prepare breakfast for the family as the children prepare for school.

The men wake up to go to the farm to get grass for the livestock and also prepare to run their errands, such as tending to the farm, taking farm products to the market, feeding the livestock, and more.

During the day, the women wash the family’s clothes, tidy up the house, wash utensils, and prepare lunch as well as supper for the family. They also have the community meetings which they attend during the day.

The group needs this water because they have an urge to develop their area by planting more trees and more food crops. It will also reduce the distance they have been walking to fetch water thus saving them more time to engage in other income generating tasks.

What we plan to do about it:

Our main entry point into Katalwa Community has been the Katalwa Jipe Moyo Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 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 the self-help group members and their communities 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 in Katalwa 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 54 meters long and 4.2 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 people living in Katalwa.

Project Updates

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Mary Kitheka

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 Katalwa Community to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training and monitor their water point. We checked in on the community and asked how the pandemic is affecting their lives.

It was during this most recent visit that Mary Kitheka shared her story of how the Coronavirus has impacted her life.

Our team met Mary outside her home to conduct the interview. Both our staff and Mary observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Mary’s story in her own words.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

All my working children were sacked and others their companies closed, sending them home with no pay, this has brought a lot of financial challenges at home. In the past rain season, I only had a handful harvest which has been depleted because of the increased consumption at home, the situation is terrible because market days are now suspended, and I cannot even sell livestock and get money for upkeep.

What steps is Kenya taking to prevent the spread of the virus?

The government has imposed movement curfews across the country with no movement of people being allowed past 7 PM up to 5 AM. Counties with high cases of the virus are locked down. No travel is allowed in and out of the counties to control its spread to other areas. Our local members of the county assembly supported us with masks in our village so that we can be able to protect ourselves while in public places.

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?

As a community, we had implemented two sand dams and shallow wells over the years in our village. Water is now accessible to all from within. I only walk to the well with my children and grandchildren, draw water, and walk back home. Having water from within is helping us avoid interactions with people from outlying areas while also making the stay at home guidelines easy to follow.

Mary washes her hands

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

The shallow wells are fully functional and have been providing us with clean water all the time. We put to use our knowledge of handwashing and soap making. We make soap for use in our tippy taps to enable regular handwashing with soap as a way to protect ourselves from the Coronavirus.

How has getting food been at this time?

I depend on my small farm produce as the primary source of food for my family. The food is little compared to the population at home and with no adequate extra funding. Getting supplies from the local markets has been a challenge as the markets are closed, while others have taken advantage of raising the prices of essential food commodities.

May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Katalwa 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 Katalwa, 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, 2018: Katalwa Community Sand Dam Complete

Katalwa 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

Hygiene and sanitation training was planned and organized by the Area Field Officer, Paul Musau, who communicated with the Katalwa Jipe Moyo Self-Help Group members and settled on a date when Instructor Christine Lucas could conduct sessions. Christine planned training content by making household visits and conducting interviews to learn how this community needs to develop.

The attendance was good, with all community group members present. Though Katalwa Jipe Moyo is mainly a women’s group, some men showed up and were welcomed. On the second day, the area chief joined the group for training. The group members were very happy to see him supporting and participating in their development projects. Training took place at group member Mary Kitheka’s homestead because it is located in the center of the community.

Christine Lucas started the training with introductions and prayer. She used several different types of activities to draw everyone in, such as demonstrations, brainstorming sessions, and group discussions.

A group discussion about problems affecting Katalwa Community.

Some of the highlighted topics were but not limited to seasonal health issues, good and bad daily habits, how diseases spread and how to prevent them, handwashing, and soap-making. In the final session, group members worked with Christine to develop an action plan to see this new knowledge put into practice.

Several women reviewing the steps of handwashing using a tool called the “tippy tap.”

The women really enjoyed the review on soap-making. They had learned the recipe in an earlier training and loved sharing their experiences over the past year. Some had said they made early mistakes when trying to produce and sell soap; some tried to dilute the recipe to save money but found it would really mess things up. Women admitted that once they learned that this way is the only right way, their soap’s high quality brought in more customers.

The seasonal calendar helped women identify common problems in their community. The members were divided into two groups and wrote down the common diseases they suffer from and when. After the group discussion, the members met in one group for presentations. Typhoid was identified as one of the most common issues, so Christine took the group through ways to prevent typhoid.

"The training was interesting, we have learned a lot. We will prevent diseases using the knowledge that we learned today. We will train our families and our communities about what we learned," Mrs. Mwende Musyoka said.

Mrs. Mwende Musyoka

"The soap sales have really helped us. Personally, I have been able to pay school fees for my children from the profit generated from soap sales. Houseflies have reduced in our homes and we are very grateful."

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.

We delivered the cement, wood, and iron needed to construct this huge sand dam.

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 54 meters long and 4.2 meters high and took 500 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.

"We are very happy to have completed this amazing water project," said Mary Kitehka.

"Our efforts to end the water problems in our area are bearing fruits with this kind of project being completed. This is our second dam and shallow well and the whole village is bursting with joy at the prospect of having an adequate supply of clean water from within the village," Mary continued.

"We thank God for taking us through the whole construction process safely and we look forward to working on more projects in our locality."

September, 2018: Katalwa Community Sand Dam Underway

A severe clean water shortage in Katalwa Community drains people’s time, energy, and health. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

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!


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