Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 456 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Sep 2019

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/01/2024

Project Features

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Our main entry point into Mwau Community is the Kianguni 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 are our hands and feet in both constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone.

We have worked with this group for the past 3 years to ensure that every person has access to reliable water close to home. While our work together has helped improve accessibility for many people here, there are still households that have to travel too far to get water each day.

It is a physical strain for the members who live far from the water source as they have to walk for long distances and the terrain is not very friendly. Some also opt to fetch water from the river directly to avoid the hustle of getting to the shallow well. If they fetch water directly from the river, the water is not clean for direct consumption as it is exposed to very many contaminants.

"The paths leading to the sand dams are sloped and the terrain is rough which is risky as people are exposed to risks of injuries," said Anastacia Wambua. "The strain in accessing clean water at times forces us to use other sources or purchase water from water vendors who often take advantage of us and deliver dirty water which is often contaminated." Mrs. Wambua's long walk for water has exacerbated these challenges.

That is why we are supporting the construction of a third sand dam and hand-dug well here - to bring water closer to hundreds of more people like Mrs. Wambua.

What we will do:

Sand Dam

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 43.4 meters long and 4.3 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.


Kianguni Self-Help Group and Mwau Community have participated in training sessions that teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish in their homes. Taking good care of themselves and their environment will make for a healthier community.

"Hygiene and sanitation in our homesteads have improved greatly following the training we have been receiving," said Teresia Kabali.

"My children have adopted a handwashing culture, which is an improvement from how we used to live. Our latrines are washed often and we have installed tippy taps near them as well. Fewer cases of diseases have been reported too."

There has been progress, but training is still necessary to ensure continued improvement.

Most homesteads practice high levels of hygiene and sanitation; they safely dispose of garbage, they use latrines and wash their hands after use, proper handwashing habits have been reinforced as most of the members have constructed tippy taps near the latrines. However, this group needs a refresher training on soapmaking as it will go a long way in benefiting the group members.

Community Background

Mwau Village is based in a rural place that is peaceful and relatively vegetated. The buildings throughout the area are a mixture of new and old structures, made of either brick or mud and thatched grass roofing. The homesteads are spread out because most families own large pieces of land.

A recent survey conducted in the area deduced that 68% of the community members carry out casual labor as their main source of income, which involves doing odd jobs in other people’s businesses or farms to earn money. This is regardless of the level of education of the respondent. Only 14% of the respondents reported farming as their main source of income in large part because it is very tough to consistently grow crops in this semi-arid region of Kenya.

On an average day for the community members, the women wake up at 6:00 am, go to fetch water, and prepare breakfast for the family as the children prepare to go to school. The men, on the other hand, wake up to go to the farm to get Napier grass for the livestock and also run errands. 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. However, in this community, the parents are older and leave the children to do most of the tasks. The children are the ones who go to the farm, take the goats to search for pasture, fetch the water, prepare meals, and some also go to school.

Project Updates

September, 2019: Mwau Community Sand Dam Complete!

Mwau, Kenya now has access to a new source of water thanks to your donation. A new sand dam was constructed on a sandy riverbed, which will build up sand to raise the water table and naturally filter water.

We worked with the Kianguni Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and physical labor to complete the projects. In addition, they were trained on various skills such as bookkeeping, financial management, project management, group dynamics, and governance. We also conducted a hygiene and sanitation training to teach skills like soapmaking and improve behaviors such as handwashing.

When an issue arises in relation to the water project, the group members are equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure it works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact our team of field officers to assist them.

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 labor to support our artisans. The collection of the raw construction materials takes longer than the actual construction. For a large sand dam, materials collection could take up to 4 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 rebar are used to reinforce the mixture.

Once the foundation is complete, a skeleton of timber is built to hold up the sludge and rocks 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.

This dam measures 43.4 meters long and 4.3 meters high and took 707 bags of cement to build.

Sand dam construction was simultaneous to the construction of a hand-dug well, which gives locals a safer method of drawing water. As the sand dam matures and stores more water, more of it will be accessible as drinking water from the well. To see that hand-dug well, click here.

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. However, it could take up to 3 years of rain for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity.

"The water project is going to be very helpful to the community members. The water point will be easily accessible to 100% of the community members and this will make life easier for us," said Janet Katuvi, a local farmer.

New Knowledge

The planning of the training was done by field officer Rhoda Mwangu and sanitation and hygiene officer Veronica Matolo. Rhoda communicated to the group's chairperson in a bid to mobilize for the members' attendance. An agreement was reached and the members selected a central venue where the training would be conducted.

Since this is a group we have worked with in the past, the trainer conferred with the field staff about their visits to households and interviews with community members to determine which topics they still wanted to improve. The hygiene and sanitation refresher training attendance was as expected as it was attended by 21 members. The community members were excited about the training as expressed in their commitment and availability. Even the new members were present because they wanted to learn.

The weather was very fair and conducive for the conduct of the training as it was windy in the morning hours and relatively sunny in the afternoon. The training was held at Isaac Ndunge's homestead, a member of the group. The environment was conducive for learning despite having only a few trees to shelter the participants.

The level of participation was high as the members were conversant with most topics of discussions. Members listed the topics which they needed refreshing on and this contributed to a lively audience. There were many questions asked and they willingly participated in the activities of the day. Each member was active and attentive throughout the training. It was very enjoyable.


Topics covered included water treatment, preparation of disinfectants, soapmaking, and fecal-oral disease transmission.

The first topic of discussion was water treatment, the process of removing impurities and contaminants to make the water fit for drinking. The community members were taught the different effective methods of water treatment such boiling, use of moringa tree seeds, chlorination, and the Solar Disinfectant Method.

"The training has been very educative and it will help us in improving the hygiene and sanitation of our homesteads and latrines," said Urbanus Munyao.

"Waterborne diseases will also reduce because we are aware of the effective water treatment methods. We spent a lot of money treating such diseases but with the information we have now, we are sure to maintain good health statuses for ourselves and our families."

Thank you for making all of this possible!

July, 2019: Mwau Community Sand Dam Underway

We have worked with Kianguni Self-Help Group for the past three years to ensure that every person has access to reliable water close to home. While our work together has helped improve accessibility for many people here, there are still households that have to travel too far to get water each day.

Thanks to your generosity, we're able to build a sand dam down the riverbed to bring water to even more people. Get to know this community through the narrative and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation, and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out again with news of success!

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: Mwau Community

February, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mwau 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!

"Before this project was completed, we relied on the other two sand dams we constructed in the previous years. They were quite far, and I had to trek for around a kilometer to fetch water. It was quite strenuous because of the terrain. I was using my donkeys to ferry the water back home. Farming activities such as planting vegetables were quite difficult because we did not have sufficient water supply nearby our farms," said Josephine Kisyima.

"Having this water point has made life simpler. Getting water is an easy task because the water point is adjacent to my home. Nowadays, my household duties are completed on time, and I have sufficient time to engage in productive income-generating activities such as farming and going to the market. My day to day routine changed thanks to this water project. I wake up early to prepare breakfast for my children and my husband. I work on my household chores and go to work at my farm. This is a very new aspect for me, and I enjoy it because it's very productive and steers a lot of personal growth. Availability of water has made us happier. There's a lot of peace in my home. There are no health complaints because the water is fresh for use, and we were trained on cost-effective water treatment methods, which have been very useful and helpful to us."

Josephine Kisyima

"The availability of water has motivated us to think and dream bigger. I started farming on my small land plot, where I have planted onions, kales, cassava, and sweet potatoes. The crops have been doing very well, I have been getting food from that farm to feed my family, and I have also been selling some to community members. I have plans to purchase a water pump to expand my farming for both domestic use and agribusiness. As a group, we have used the water to establish a tree nursery garden with a variety of trees. Once they are ready for planting, we shall subdivide them among ourselves."

Josephine and her children

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 Mwau 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 Mwau 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 - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation