Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 881 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Aug 2022

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/10/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

Water scarcity is Kivai and Kimwatho Communities' most pressing challenge. The problems with the water situation in Kivai and Kimwatho are almost too numerous to detail.

Most of the rivers here are seasonal, holding water only during the rainy season and a few months after. Community members trek long distances to access water, having to dig deep scoopholes.

Mary Mutisya, 60 (pictured above), avoids the whole ordeal—when she can afford it. "It is very costly to buy water for drinking whenever I am unable to walk to the river," she said.

"I have to pay someone to get the water from Kivani market to get me clean drinking water. I waste a lot of time whenever I fail to get the cash as I have to get it myself. It is a pressing issue at my demanding age."

Because water is such a sought-after commodity here, the lines at each water source are long. Some community members who live far away from the riverbed spend the night at the scoopholes so they can be the first ones in line to fill their jerrycans, cupful by cupful. People spend up to four hours just waiting for the opportunity to fetch water.

Mercy, who is eight years old (pictured below in the red shirt, right), already knows the struggles of fetching water in her community. "Walking to the river every morning is very hectic," Mercy said. "I always accompany my mother to the river. We end up spending most of our day there trying to fetch some water. I miss playing with other children as we get home late and [I am too] tired to play."

If Mercy's mother leaves her at home while she fetches water, that poses another issue. "I have to wait for my mother to go and fetch the water to come and make food for us. In the morning when she leaves, I get nervous being left at home alone so much."

The scoopholes are open to all forms of contamination. Even after the water is boiled, it's been known to cause dysentery, cholera, scabies, typhoid, and brucellosis, amongst other conditions. And humans aren't the scoopholes' only customers. Wild animals who are also looking for a spot to drink have been known to attack those standing in line. The animals are fierce in their desperation for water.

The sources of water community members can find are not only contaminated, but they are also full of salt. Each jerrycan-full needs to be boiled before it can be used for cooking or drinking, which takes a good amount of time in kitchens where the only source of heat is a woodfire. People waste a lot of soap trying to remove the crust of salt from their clothes during laundering.

The people of Kivai and Kimwatho already have ventilated latrines and handwashing stations. Cleanliness is important to them. If they only had a source of clean and reliable water so they could more easily wash their homes, dishes, clothes, and latrines, their standard of living would be greatly improved.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Kivai Kimwatho 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 both 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 along with 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 been a big hindrance to reaching their fullest potential.

We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Kivai Kimwatho 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 help to ensure that participants have the knowledge they need to make the most out of their new water point as soon as water is flowing.

One of the most important topics we plan to cover is the handling, storage, and treatment of 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.

We and the community 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 3 to 5 years on multiple water projects. We will conduct follow-up visits and refresher trainings 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

August, 2022: Kivai Kimwatho Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kivai Kimwatho, 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.

"On my side, I will no longer walk several kilometers for water after school," said 14-year-old Gideon W. "The time used trekking into the river will be used in studying, as school is now demanding. I will never go thirsty while reliable water is right here with me. I hope to do well at school as now I do not have to worry about what I shall drink."

Gideon at the hygiene training.

"For years, I have wished to own a kitchen garden, but water scarcity has shuttered my dreams," Gideon continued. "Now, things are looking up, and soon the kitchen garden will be live and working. This will make my family stop buying vegetables from unknown sources and save that money for other uses."

"Since I was a boy, I really wanted to get peace of mind by having reliable water at my home," said 63-year-old farmer, Alex Mailu. "My dreams seem to happen, and already I have witnessed them. I am very happy to get all this water in just a blink of an eye. I hope to utilize this water for drinking, farming, and my cattle. I will not have to walk several kilometers to queue for water at this age. I will just focus on my farm and become rich."


''I want my children to have the best life ever, not like mine," Alex continued. "I will encourage all to plant trees and utilize this water."

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Kivai Kimwatho 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 53 meters long and four meters high and took 1,720 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 previous household visits and interviews with community members to determine which topics the community could improve upon. 58 people turned up for the training: 27 males and 31 females (which was very impressive, given that the Self-Help Group only has 50 members!).

The group learns how to construct a simple handwashing station.

We decided to train on health problems in the community, good and bad hygiene behaviors, the spread and prevention of disease, and sanitation improvements. We also covered various skills, including bookkeeping, financial management, project management, group dynamics, and governance. We included techniques like soapmaking and handwashing.

The most memorable topic was disease transmission, during which the group split up into three to discuss which diseases affect their community the most and how infections are spread from one person to another.

Disease transmission discussion.

Not only did this spur a lively discussion, but during the lecture, members saw that, after heavy rains the previous night, their sand dam had begun to store up water behind it even before its construction had been completed. This both proved the efficacy of their hard work and excited them about impending improvements to their lives.

Beatrice at the hygiene training.

"The training was of importance to us and, specifically, to me," said 43-year-old farmer and housewife, Beatrice Lau. "I have adopted some of the hygiene and sanitation practices that we were taught and currently, I have achieved more than half. I hope to maintain proper sanitation levels at home and also pass this knowledge to my children so that we do not get sick over and over. I am thankful for the training."


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!

June, 2022: Kivai Kimwatho Community Sand Dam Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Kivai Kimwatho 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: "Promise of a Good Future!"

August, 2023

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kivai Kimwatho 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!

Joshua Mutunga, 27, recalled what life was like in Kivai Kimwatho Community before his community's sand dam was implemented last year.

"Before the construction of this sand dam, we faced many challenges. It was difficult looking for water. We only depended on scoop holes which went deeper and deeper as dry seasons hit us. The situation worsened in the community such that some had to camp at the river, [which made] girls falling into the risk of getting [attacked]," shared Joshua

But life is much safer for Joshua and other Kivai Kimwatho Community 1A community members now.

"After constructing this sand dam, life has changed a lot. In the past year, I have been able to practice farming which is evident on my farm. I have managed to plant cabbage and capsicum (bell peppers). The water is always available, and community members are less worried about the water situation. Children are now safe, especially girls - a promise of a good future for them," he continued.

Having ready access to water from the sand dam has made a difference for Joshua, allowing him to focus on growing his farm, which will help provide a brighter future for him.

"In the past year, I have planted numerous trees and ventured into cash crop farming. Currently, my family does not buy food from the market; rather, we produce it locally for household uses. Due to the availability of water, I am able to water my plants adequately with no rush," Joshua concluded.

Thank you for helping Joshua access clean water and creating an opportunity to better his situation, giving hope to a community that was once racked with fear for their safety when it came to their water source.

Right now, there are others just like him 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 Kivai Kimwatho 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 Kivai Kimwatho 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 - New York Digital Investment Group
Data Abstract Solutions, Inc.
Kavod Charter School
Solomons Porch Sunday School Class
North Dunedin Baptist Church
Facebook Donations
Harford County Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. 5K WATER DASH 2022
110 individual donor(s)