Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Mar 2020

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 06/03/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

This is our second year partnering with the Ngwatanio ya Kinyongo Self-Help Group in Utuneni, Kenya. Last year, we constructed a sand dam and hand-dug well that are already providing water to some of the 4,553 people living here.

But a single water point can only regularly support about 500 people. That is why we work with self-help groups for five years to build more water points and ensure that every person has access to safe, reliable water.

Universal access to water by all community members remains a challenge in this community with some members coming from far places to reach the already implemented water projects. The community members exhibit high levels of commitment to ensure easy water access for the entire population through the implementation of more water projects evenly distributed so as to reach every corner of the village.

"We come from a community which is not privileged enough to have an adequate water supply all around the year. Working on water projects for the last one year has brought more hope as the fruits of our work are more visible," said Esther Muindi.

The community is found on the slopes of Mbooni Hills in Makueni County. Community members live in a peaceful, rural setting with significant tree coverage made up of exotic trees species. A majority of community members live in decent houses made of bricks and covered with iron sheets, while others live in mud-walled houses covered with iron sheets or grass.

On an average day for the community members, a woman and her children wake up at 6 am, go to fetch water, and then prepare breakfast for the family as the children prepare for school. The man, on the other hand, wakes up to go to the farm to get Napier grass for the livestock and also to run any needed errands. Errands that are most common are farming, taking farm products to the market, and feeding the livestock among others.

During the day, the woman does household chores such as washing the family’s clothes, tidying up the house, washing utensils, and preparing lunch as well as supper for the family. They also have community meetings such as fellowships and self-help group meetings which they attend during the day.

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 35.2 meters long and 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 Utuneni Village.


Community members have participated in training sessions that teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish in their homes. Members of this community are recording improvements on their adherence to hygiene and sanitation standards, a good number of community members have constructed handwashing stations, clotheslines and dish racks. Improvements are highly needed on having garbage pits and regular cleaning of latrines.

"The state of hygiene and sanitation in our community can be described as average, community members are improving slowly after the training on hygiene and sanitation in the last one which taught us on the important aspects of maintaining high levels of cleanliness," said Esther Muindi.

Upcoming training sessions will strengthen weaknesses and continue encouraging each family that making the extra effort to clean homes, bathe, wash hands, and treat water is well worth it!

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.

March, 2020: Utuneni Community Sand Dam Complete!

Please note, all photos in this report were taken before social distancing recommendations went into place.

Utuneni, 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.

"The new water point will be very beneficial to this entire community. The availability of water has been made easier for all of us," said Benson Kyuli, a farmer from the community.

"We are grateful that now, all of our group members can access water at a distance of fewer than 100 meters from their homesteads. The water is clean and fresh for direct consumption which is very pleasing for us all."

We worked with the Ngwatanio Ya Kinyongo Self-Help Group for this project. The members and their families contributed materials and physical labor to complete the project. 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 to help 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 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 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. Finally, the vertical timber beams are dismantled and the dam is left to cure.

This dam measures 35.2 meters long and 4 meters high and took 314 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 since sometimes it only rains once a year!

New Knowledge

Before training commenced, the trainer conferred with the field staff about their previous visits to households and interviews with community members here to determine which topics the community still could improve upon. When the training day finally arrived, the attendance was as expected with 38 members and 2 village elders. It was a commendable number of people because the construction of the project was ongoing and this is the third training with this group.

Based on discussions with group members and an evaluation of their progress over the past 3 years, we decided to train on nutrition, disease transmission and prevention, and soapmaking.

The training was held under a tree at their first sand dam site. The environment was conducive to learning. During the morning hours, it was very chilly but the atmosphere got warmer as the day elapsed. By the afternoon, it was relatively warm.

The participation level of the community members was very impressive throughout the session. All of the members participated in the training by asking questions, airing their concerns, and volunteering to take part in the demonstrative activities. The session was very lively and enjoyable.

During the first topic, community members alongside the facilitator discussed in-depth the transmission of diseases and the major carriers in their homes. These included feces, fingers, flies, fields, fluids, and food, among others. The community members were sensitized on practices of maintaining high sanitation standards such as handwashing, cleaning food before eating, and cleaning the surfaces where food is prepared.

For any social and economic development, adequate sanitation in conjunction with good hygiene and safe water is essential to good health. Inadequate access to clean water and poor sanitation results in the spread of deadly diseases.

"The training has been instrumental in empowering us to be independent and grasp the knowledge of owning the projects as our own," said Mr. Kyuli.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

February, 2020: Utuneni Community sand dam underway!

A severe clean water shortage at Utuneni Community drains time, energy, and health from people here. 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!

Giving Update: Utuneni Community

February, 2021

A year ago, your generous donation helped Utuneni Community in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Benson Mutua Kyuli. 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 2A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Utuneni Community 2A 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, I really strained to get water. I had to walk for close to three and a half kilometers to fetch water. The water that I would get was either dirty, contaminated, or very scarce. I would dig scoop holes, but as the dry season approached, the water table would really reduce, and I had to dig deeper scoop holes. Diseases such as typhoid and amoeba were very rampant," said Benson Mutua Kyuli.

"Getting water from this water point has been very beneficial in my life. I have witnessed a lot of improvement, growth, and development in my living standards, especially in hygiene and sanitation. My livestock now has enough water to drink, and I do not have to trek for long distances for that. Availability of water has enabled me to plant vegetables such as spinach, kales, and tomatoes. The diseases that we previously suffered from are now a thing of the past. I am now more knowledgeable on how to treat water, which has helped me as I no longer contract such diseases."

Benson Kyuli

"The availability of easy access to water in this village has helped me because I can now engage in large scale farming. We have also laid strategic plans to start selling water to community members during the dry season. We will open an account where we can save money, and members can borrow at low interest rates for their personal development."

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 2A 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 2A – 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.


Grant Olson Inaugural Marathon to Fight Thirst
7 individual donor(s)