Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 299 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Sep 2019

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/12/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

This community fetches water at River Nziuni, which is a seasonal river. Nziuni only flows during the rainy season. Afterwards, the river ceases to flow and people have to dig holes to find water.

As the months go by, the river gets drier and drier and the holes are dug deeper and deeper, which is very exhausting and dangerous. All of this work is for water that is unsafe and open to contamination.

The water attained from these sources is not safe for direct consumption. The scoop holes are often left open until the next time of use, which exposes the water to different kinds of contaminants such as pathogens, human activity, animal activity, improper waste disposal, open defecation among others.

The other alternative source of water is a school water kiosk located approximately three kilometers from the community. But people have to pay for the water, and it's something that people cannot afford on a regular basis. Once all their water sources have depleted, they are forced to walk for five kilometers or more to Tyaa River.

Even though these community members have to walk for very long distances for water, some members do not own donkeys so they are forced to go back and forth to the water source multiple times. This is extremely exhausting and depletes all of the valuable time in a day.

Due to the long lines at the sources, people have to wake up very early in order to get at the water source on time. Clashes and fights among the community members at the water source can break relationships and brew enmity.

"Walking to the water source is very cumbersome due to the hilly and rough topography of the area," said Viata Mulinga.

"Hunger pangs, a result of water scarcity, are common because one may lack water for cooking or even drinking which really makes life hard."

Our main entry point into Kathungutu Community is the Mung'alu Self-Help Group, which is comprised of 35 farming households that are working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. We will partner with this group on projects for five years to ensure everyone has access to safe water.  These members will be our hands and feet in both constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone.

Members of Mung'alu Self-Help Hroup hail from the small village Kathungutu. It lacks basic amenities and infrastructure such as hospitals, electricity, and running water. It is characterized as a rural setting which is very peaceful and relatively vegetated. The landscape consists of indigenous natural bushes - some which have been cleared to create pathways. The buildings are built of bricks and mud with iron sheet roofs.

People here rely on farming, casual labor, and small businesses for their income. Farming is the most relied on, although it is an inconsistent source of income because the community members have to depend on the rains to farm.

There's high potential with this group of people because if they are trained on financial management and record-keeping, they will boost their income levels. The few who indulge in casual labor proved that with the provision of water, they would embark on farming and other income-generating activities instead.

What we can 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 33.9 meters long and 3.4 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 of people in Kathungutu, Kenya.


We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with community members. These will teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish in the community at the personal and household levels. Taking good care of self and environment will make for a healthy community.

Most households have poor compound hygiene and their general hygiene and sanitation standards are low.

"We do not have sufficient water to keep the latrines clean," said Salina Mwende.

"At times we may fail to take showers because the water is not enough for such comforts. Lack of sufficient water is very troublesome in this area."

In relation to this, they need improvement on compound hygiene, effective water treatment methods, handwashing training, soap making lessons and knowledge of disease transmission routes. The members of this group seem to have little knowledge on hygiene and sanitation. This also exposes them to risks of contracting diseases such as cholera, typhoid, diarrhea and stomachaches.

Project Updates

July, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Kathungutu 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 Kathungutu, 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.

August, 2019: Kathungutu Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kathungutu, 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 Mung'alu Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and physical labor to complete it.

"We are very happy to have successfully completed the construction of this water project in our community. It is one of a kind and it will help us and the future generations in our village," said Viata Mulingwa, a farmer who helped with the construction of the project.

In addition, community members 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 concerning 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 their field officer to assist them.

Sand Dam

The community members collected all of the local materials like rocks and sand that were required for the 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 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.

The dam measures 67.8 meters long and 4.65 meters high and took 613 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.

"This is a major milestone in our quest to have increased access to water in our community. We are ready to work on more projects!" said Mrs. Mulingwa.

New Knowledge

Field officer Paul Musau visited the group and informed all the members on the dates of the hygiene and sanitation training. More than 30 people were in attendance when our trainer Veronica Matolo arrived. The venue of the training was in the homestead of Mbuvi Kitumbi. The weather was windy and cold for the better part of the 3 days, and members preferred sitting in the open to get some warmth from the sun. The environment was very conducive and no distraction was experienced at all.

The trainer conferred with the field staff about their visits to households and interviews with community members to determine on which topics the community still had room for improvement. They decided to train on the following topics:

- Health problems in the community

- Good and bad hygiene behaviors

- How diseases spread and their prevention

- Choosing sanitation improvements

- Choosing improved hygiene behaviors

- Planning for behavioral change

- Handwashing

- Soapmaking

The participants especially enjoyed the soapmaking part of the training. This was the first time they learned how to make soap. They were very interested in the process and the opportunity to make soap themselves that they can sell in local markets.

"Our income will also increase because we now have a new skill of soapmaking," said Viata Mulingwa.

"And it will improve our nutrition since it will help us afford to buy more food."

Another topic of interest was open defecation. The group walked around some nearby households to inspect them for evidence of open defecation. They learned that many people were going to the bathroom wherever they wanted. Most notably, they found feces near the open scoop holes where they sometimes fetch water.

"This training will help us improve hygiene by stopping open defecation. This will be achieved by people constructing latrines, especially those that don't have any," Mrs. Mulingwa said.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

July, 2019: Kathungutu Community Sand Dam Underway

People living in Kathungutu Community walk a long way just to get dirty water from open scoop holes. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to solve this issue by building a sand dam that will capture water and store it nearby.

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: Kathungutu Community

February, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kathungutu 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!

"I was not majorly involved in the water fetching process because the water points were a bit far for us children to be able to walk and get water back home. Mum would walk to the river with containers and donkeys then come back with water after some time depending on the day and time she had left home," explained Brian K.

"Now I am well involved in fetching water because this new water project has been providing us with water for the last one year. The water is clean, always available, and I enjoy fetching water because the distance is short, and using the hand pump is enjoyable. The availability of enough water at home has been good. Now, I can wash my clothes. In the past, my mum would do it to utilize the little water well. I am also watering some trees which were planted by my dad using water from the well."


"I can be involved in the water fetching process, unlike before. I wash my clothes more regularly with a lot of water so that they are fully clean. Using the available water, I have been watering trees and flowers at home, which has taught me that with enough water, all trees can survive in our area."

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 Kathungutu 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 Kathungutu 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