Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 300 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Sep 2022

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 03/16/2024

Project Features

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Because of the acute water scarcity in this region, some community members walk more than two hours each way to fill their buckets and jerrycans with salty, unsafe water. They arrive home feeling exhausted and unable to focus entirely on other activities such as farming and livestock keeping.

The arid climate means that the river that once flowed through this region is now dry most of the year. This leaves the people here with two options: buy water or dig a deep scoop hole (pictured below) where the river once was to reach water deep underground.

"The water point is far away, and I have to walk about five kilometers to acquire water for my family," said Damaris Kasilu, a local farmer (pictured below). "When the scoop holes dry, I have to walk several kilometers to purchase water. This is quite expensive, especially since I do not have crops to sell, thanks to the water scarcity."

Hygiene and sanitation in the area are below human standards. Most of the community members are unable to brush their teeth or bathe because of the water crisis. Homes are not cleaned regularly. Poultry animals can also find their way to households' interiors, which further deteriorates hygiene.

"The water is also contaminated, but I do not have any other option besides drinking it and using it for cooking," Damaris continued. "It is also difficult for me to uphold proper hygiene and sanitation because I have to use the available water sparingly."

Latrines are rarely cleaned, with most families pouring wood ash inside to reduce the unpleasant smell. The latrines' pits are also open so that houseflies can spread germs to other homestead areas.

Because of the unsafe water and unclean conditions, people complain of stomach aches, while others have been diagnosed with infections such as typhoid, amoeba, and dysentery.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Kiliku Self-Help Group, which comprises households 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 significantly hindered reaching their fullest potential.

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Kiliku Self-Help Group and other community members to teach essential hygiene practices and daily habits to establish at the personal, household, and community level. This training will help to ensure that participants have the knowledge 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, storage, and water treatment. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated when it is consumed. We will also emphasize the importance of handwashing.

The community and we firmly 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 3 to 5 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

September, 2022: Kiliku Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kiliku, Kenya now has access to a new water source thanks to your donation! We constructed a new sand dam on the riverbed, which will build up sand to raise the water table and naturally filter water over time. We also built a new hand-dug well with a hand pump adjacent to the sand dam, providing the community with a safer method to draw drinking water supplied by the dam.

"[The new project] will help me because I will no longer be walking long distances," said 50-year-old farmer Mumbe Mutunga. "I will have enough water [for] hygiene and sanitation and farming. I will also have a nearby source of water for [the] construction of various household structures. We will also sell the water to other community members at a reasonable cost and earn an income."


"Being a farmer, this waterpoint [will help me] to acquire water for irrigation and improve farm yields," Mumbe continued. "I will grow more vegetables and fruits such as kale, spinach, pawpaws, oranges, and more. I will be able to earn a stable income while caring for my family."

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Kiliku Self-Help Group collected all of the local materials like rocks and sand required to complete the dam. The collection of raw construction materials takes longer than the actual construction, lasting up to four months for a large sand dam. The group also dedicated their time and energy to support our artisans with physical labor throughout the project.

First, our team drew siting and technical designs and presented them to the Water Resources Management Authority. We also sent a survey to the National Environment Management Authority for approval before we began construction.

Once the plans were approved, we established firm bedrock at the base of the sand dam wall. In the absence of good bedrock, we excavate to a depth at which the ground is compact enough to stop seepage.

Next, we mixed and heaped mortar (a mixture of sand, cement, and water) into the foundation, followed by rocks once there was enough mortar. We then used barbed wire and rebar to reinforce the mixture.

Once the foundation was complete, we built a timber skeleton to hold the sludge and rocks above ground level. Once our first layer dried, we repeated the process until reaching a sufficient height, width, and length.

Finally, we dismantled the vertical timber beams and left the dam to cure. This dam measures 43 meters long and five meters high and took 820 bags of cement to build.

As soon as it rains, the dam will build up sand and store water. With this water, the surrounding landscape will become lush and fertile, and the well will provide drinking water to the community. It could take up to three years of rain for this sand dam to reach maximum capacity because in this region, sometimes it only rains once a year!

New Knowledge

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

Self-help group members make a map of their community to show which households still need key hygiene and sanitation features like latrines, dishracks, and clotheslines.

Peter Mwandikwa, the chairman of the self-help group, thought the training was a success. "The training has enlightened us on different hygiene issues like construction and use of latrines, handwashing, food hygiene, personal hygiene, water sources, and drinking water hygiene, among other hygienic practices that will help protect us from getting diseases," he said. "On the other hand, we will not be incurring a lot of expenses when buying soap because we have learned how to make it on our own."

Community members learn to make their own soap.

We trained the group on various skills, including bookkeeping, financial management, project management, group dynamics, and governance. We also conducted hygiene and sanitation training to teach skills like soap- and detergent-making and improve behaviors such as handwashing.

We also touched on health problems in the community, good and bad hygiene behaviors, the spread and prevention of disease, and sanitation improvements.


This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members themselves. When an issue arises concerning the sand dam, 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 local field officers to assist them.

Also, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our monitoring and maintenance program. We walk with each community, problem-solving together when they face challenges with functionality, seasonality, or water quality. Together, all these components help us strive for enduring access to reliable, clean, and safe water for this community.

With your contribution, one more piece has been added to a large puzzle of water projects. In our target areas, we’re working toward complete coverage of reliable, maintained water sources within a 30-minute round trip for each community, household, school, and health center. With this in mind, search through our upcoming projects to see which community you can help next!

Thank you for making all of this possible!

May, 2022: Kiliku Community 1A Sand Dam Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Kiliku 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: Plenty of Water for Cooking, Cleaning and Improvement Projects!

November, 2023

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kiliku 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!

Farmer Tabitha Kanini, 47, recalled what life was like in the Kiliku Community before her community's sand dam was implemented last year.

"Before the construction of this sand dam project, I used to walk the distant Kyamiu or Kyemani river, an ordeal that would take 4 hours to fetch water for use. These rivers were also seasonal with an inadequate supply of water; thus, getting water for drinking or cooking was a challenge, let alone performing hygiene and sanitation chores. The unprotected well was also dangerous and easily contaminated," said Tabitha.

But life is simpler and hopeful for Tabitha and the other community members in Kiliku Community now.

"I am now able to get water for cooking and drinking within a short time because the shallow well is only minutes away from my home. I also get more time and energy to focus on activities like tree planting, cultivating kitchen gardens, and crop cultivation," said Tabitha.

Having ready access to water from the sand dam has made a difference for Tabitha, allowing her to improve her daily life.

"This waterpoint offers enough water for hygiene and sanitation. The clean water also ensures we are not exposed to infections like typhoid or stomach upsets. I am also able to clean my house and prepare meals on time for my children," concluded Tabitha.

Tabitha by the well that produces water from the sand dam.

Right now, there are others in neighboring communities that desperately need safe water access. Your support will immediately go to work to provide a clean water project - and we can't wait to introduce you to the next person you'll help.

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 Kiliku 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 Kiliku 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.


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