Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 1,830 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - May 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/06/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

The average day for the 1,830 people living in Kithalani, Kenya, begins at 6:00 am when the women and children wake up to fetch water. The main water source here is the Kithalani and Tyaa rivers. People travel between one and two miles to reach the rivers. Then, they dig scoop holes in the river bed to fill their containers with water.

The scoop holes are open water sources shared by human beings and livestock including cows, goats, and donkeys because of their proximity to grazing fields.

A majority of community members in this locality rely on small-scale farming for domestic needs. They grow crops such as maize, cowpeas, pigeon peas, and green grams, relying on natural rainfall to water their crops. Many others have also invested in rearing goats and cows, with the scale depending on the size of their land.

"For many years, water has been a challenge to our community. We majorly rely on scoop holes that have provided us with unsafe water for family consumption," said Pius Kyalo, a farmer in the community.

When the containers are full, the women and children walk home. For most families, it takes an hour to fetch water. Oftentimes, the morning trip to fetch water is not the only trip of the day.

"Fetching water in our community has always been a full-time affair which has to be done daily due to a lack of reliable water sources. Especially for us women, who are traditionally tasked with the work, it is such a tedious task, but we always have limited options," shared Angelina Kimanzi.

During the day, the women wash their families’ clothes, tidy the house, wash utensils, and prepare lunch for the family. Depending on the size of the family and water needs, many women and children may be required to travel back to the water source multiple times to get water for their use at home.

"At my home, my wife and children almost go to fetch water daily, which really takes up most of their time," Pius said.

What We Can Do:

Our main entry point into Kithalani Community has been the Lenza Mukuyuni Self-Help Group, which is comprised of households that are working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. These members will be our hands and feet in constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone.

Sand Dam

After the community picked the ideal 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 this sand dam, a hand-dug well will be installed to give community members an easy, safe way to access that water.

Building this sand dam and the well in this community will help bring clean water closer to hundreds of people living here.


These community members currently do their best to practice good hygiene and sanitation, but their severe lack of water has hindered reaching their fullest potential.

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Lenza Mukuyuni Self-Help Group and other community members to teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish at the personal, household, and community level. This training will ensure that participants know they need to make the most out of their new water point as soon as the water is flowing.

One of the most important topics we plan to cover is handling, storing, and treating water. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated by the time it is consumed. We will also emphasize the importance of handwashing.

The community and we strongly believe that all of these components will work together to improve living standards here, which will help to unlock the potential for these community members to live better, healthier lives.

We typically work with self-help groups for three to five years on multiple water projects. We will conduct follow-up visits and refresher training during this period and remain in contact with the group after all of the projects are completed to support their efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene.

Project Updates

May, 2021: Kithalani Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kithalani, 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.

"I am happy that the water project has been completed successfully and already holds water from within the village. It is a big win in the water fetching process. I will no longer walk for long distances in search of water like it has been the case in the past," said David Musyoka.

Because sometimes it only rains once a year, it could take up to three years of rain for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity. As the sand dam matures and stores more sand, a water supply will be available for drinking from the well. With this water, the surrounding landscape will become lush and fertile.

"This new water point has brought water close to all of us. The dam and well already hold water and the happiness is overwhelming. The long distances in search of water for household use and our cattle will now be long gone in the wake of this amazing water project," said Esther K.

Sand Dam

The community members collected all of the local materials like rocks and sand 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 four months.

Siting and technical designs were drawn and presented to the Water Resources Management Authority, and a survey was 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 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 poured 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 67 meters long and 4 meters high and took 750 bags of cement to build. Sand dam construction was simultaneous to constructing a hand-dug well, which gives locals a safer method of drawing water. As the sand dam matures and stores more water, more 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.

New Knowledge

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

The trainer conferred with the field staff about their previous visits to households and interviews with community members to determine which topics the community could improve upon.

The training was held at the site where construction of their new dam was ongoing. Members thought that because they were still constructing their dam, it would be convenient for the training to be done here so that early in the morning before the training, they could do some little work as well as later in the evening after the training. The venue had shade provided by the surrounding big trees.

The facilitators decided to train on 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, and soapmaking.

"This training will bring a positive impact in our lives since the knowledge we have gained will help us improve our hygiene. For instance, we will prevent diseases by observing all the hygiene measures that have been taught to us like water treatment, handwashing with soap, protecting our water sources from sanitation infrastructures like latrines, and using an improved tippy tap, unlike the ones that we have been constructing," said Esther Kamene.

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 field officers to assist them.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

March, 2021: Kithalani Community sand dam underway!

A severe clean water shortage at Kithalani 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!

A Year Later: "My grandchildren are assured of clean water"

July, 2022

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kithalani 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!

"Life before the implementation of this project was painfully difficult," shared Esther Kamene, a 42-year-old farmer, as she described life before a sand dam was installed in her community last year.

"We had to walk under the burning [sun] for about four kilometers in search of water from the scoop holes and dug well that were usually overcrowded. Our donkeys could succumb to the exhaustion of carrying water. Also, livestock rearing and crop cultivation led to poor or no yields because of the water scarcity. The long walks and queues also led to time wastage and exhaustion; thus, we could not fully focus on farming," said Esther.

But things are different now. "The implemented project is nearby and offers clean water that can sustain the community during the long drought periods," commented Esther.

"I use all my energy and time to improve farming. I grow crops such as maize, beans, and vegetables that give me high yields. The project has also led to better food security and [a] source of income. I have grown vegetables for domestic and sales purposes, thanks to the implemented shallow well and sand dam," said Esther.

But not only is the project impacting Esther's life but also her grandchildren's lives.

"My grandchildren are assured of clean water that will sustain them during the long dry periods. They will no longer experience the previous hardships of water scarcity."

Our Note: The water is not clear due to the presence of iron in the water. While iron found in drinking water is usually an aesthetic quality, the community can still use the water without concern for health issues. We often find that the water clears as the sediment at the bottom of the well settles and the sand dam that supplies the well matures.

This well was designed to protect against outside contamination and provide safer water than the unprotected sources this community may have been using. We will keep a close eye on the water quality of this well through our quarterly monitoring program and send an update as soon as it settles.

Esther (left) drinking water with fellow community members.

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 Kithalani 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 Kithalani 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