Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 1,000 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Oct 2022

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 09/12/2023

Project Features

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Koriro, a community of 1,000 people, is rural in a semi-arid region characterized by indigenous trees, thorn bushes, and drought-resistant crops. Water is challenging to come by in this region and a daily struggle.

Community members must walk several hours, up to 5 kilometers (over 3 miles) from their homes to collect their daily water, leaving them drained, as shared by Jones Mutisya, a 48-year-old farmer. "I have to go fetch water for my family, but I return home feeling exhausted due to the long distance under the burning sun."

Each morning wives (and some husbands) tasked with the burden of fetching water for the family, wake up early with hopes that they will get to the scoopholes to collect water in time before it runs out. The scoop holes do not have sufficient water to satisfy the entire community, resulting in long queues and quarrels.

Older children in the community usually accompany their parents because they have to bring water to school, as shared by Monica M., age 17: "The long distance leaves me exhausted, and my academic performance has been adversely affected. Since water is inadequate, I have to use water sparingly at home; therefore, I lack enough water to improve my hygiene and sanitation."

Because of the distance and the time it takes, they can only make one or two trips to the water point a day but still do not return home until the afternoon to embark on other activities. With time and energy wasted, all other areas of productivity in their daily lives suffer.

The water from the scoop holes is salty and unsuitable for drinking. It is open to human and animal contamination (excrement from donkeys, goats, and cattle), exposing the residents to infections such as dysentery, typhoid, and amoeba.

Rarely, a few community members are fortunate enough to own a tank to try to collect water when it rains, but in this area of Kenya, that does not hold much promise.

The sand dam that this community needs will eradicate the long walks to the scoopholes by providing water to the new community well.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Usingilaa 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 Usingilaa 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

October, 2022: Koriro Community Sand Dam Complete!

Koriro, 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.

"In the past, I would help my parents in fetching water from [the] Iguini River located 7 kilometers away, or I would herd the goats while my mother went to fetch water. The water point is now less than 500 meters from my home. I will get more time to play and study, and ultimately my academic performance will improve," said 17-year-old Monica M.


"My parents and I will be able to grow and irrigate various trees and crops because we will easily acquire water from the recently implemented water point," concluded Monica.

We will keep checking on this community through our monitoring program as we await rains that will fill the sand dam and make water accessible.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of the Usingilaa 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 38 meters long and 3 meters high and took 984 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.

"The project about latrine disinfectant and soap is rewarding for both community members and community workers because it involves the communities in project planning and implementation. Communities and members of the group have gained confidence and responsibility for their own projects and have a clear say in what they want for sustainable development. Sanitation is enriched in the millennium development goals and is a cornerstone of the fight against poverty. Lack of basic sanitation puts millions of lives at risk hence high morbidity and mortality in developing countries," said John Mutisya,  the 54-year-old chairman of the water user committee.

The training took place near the dam site.

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.

Soap and latrine disinfectant making was the most interesting topic of the day. Members were very happy to see how easy it was and are excited to be in a position to fulfill their basic needs and potentially generate additional income with their new skills.


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: Koriro Community Sand Dam Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Koriro 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!


Project Sponsor - Barbara Belle Ash Dougan Foundation