Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 192 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Feb 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/20/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

The 192 people of Kalawa community have to walk several miles each way to fetch water for their families. They set aside whole days for the task because they know it will take hours of walking in the scorching sun. The task often leaves them too exhausted for anything else.

Sometimes their poor health means they don't have the energy to make the journey to the community's far-away protected well. In that case, they make do with an unmonitored water source, from which the water is brown, salty, and contaminated.

"I would be happy if I get a place I would be fetching clean water with ease for my consumption," said 40-year-old Florenca Wambua. "I [would] walk [a] shorter distance, hence I [would] be able to attend to other chores back at home [and] prepare my children to attend school on time."

The community members often experience stomach problems whenever they drink the surface water without boiling it. They also experience regular diarrhea, further deteriorating their health.

Because of the water scarcity issues here, the community members are not able to grow crops easily, which is especially bad news for people who practice subsistence farming to feed their families.

"Water is all that I would love to have in abundance," said 7-year-old Mumbe. "Drinking clean water will help in improving my health and keeping me strong as well as focused to achieve my dreams."

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Kalawa People Living with HIV/AIDS 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 Kalawa People Living with HIV/AIDS 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

February, 2023: Kalawa Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kalawa, 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.

"I am very optimistic to get very clean, reliable, and safe water for drinking at home," said 18-year-old student Saumu K.


"This water point will save me from the tedious walk for water to [the] River Athi. The journey is not sweet. Whenever I think of it, I even lack enough sleep. Having to wake up so early and reporting late back home is unthinkable. This is a lifetime solution for our community in regard to water scarcity.

"Now that we have this sand dam, I hope when rains come, the long journey to [the] River Athi will be a forgotten story," Saumu continued. "My life will greatly change. I am planning to plant many trees at my home to help change the environment and also have a good environment. I will save on time and do more at our farm as I have a passion for farming."

"Water from this point will help me instill the practice of hygiene and sanitation in my home through the washing of hands, cleaning the house, and the latrine," said 58-year-old driver Benson Kioko Uswii.


"When I start farming, I hope to improve my income, therefore improving my living standards at my home," Benson continued. "I will not have to walk to [the River] Athi and [the] River Kalawa. I used to walk for three hours to River Athi only to fetch running water in the river. From here, that river is approximately six kilometers [away].

"Our children will no longer have to miss school due to water scarcity. I remember at times, it [was] easier to look for food rather than water in the community. Now that there is a shallow well that is protected, we hope to enjoy clean water which will never pose health dangers to us. I want to become self-reliant through farming using water from the sand dam."

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Kalawa People Living With HIV 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 50 meters long and four meters high and took 943 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.

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.

Soap-making in progress.

The Self-Help Group members came up with a statement they wanted to share with the donors at the conclusion of their training session: "We members of Kalawa PLWH Self-Help Group will be in a position to transform our entire community/society to a better dwelling place through practicing good hygiene and sanitation."

After this statement was finished, one group member shouted, ''We will forever remain clean!'' and all the others burst into laughter. All the members applauded this sentiment with a song and a little dance.


This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members themselves. When an issue arises concerning the well, 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!

January, 2023: Kalawa Community Sand Dam Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Kalawa 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!

Clean Water Access Helps Titus Become Self-Sufficient!

April, 2024

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Kalawa 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 Titus Kyalo, 24, recalled what life was like in the Kalawa 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 wasted a lot of time walking all the way to river Athi, which is miles away from our community. Our area is characterized with rocks and hills which are hard to climb. The water used to be very dirty such that at times we used to get sick," Titus shared.

Collecting water is now more accessible for Titus and the other Kalawa community members! They no longer worry about water-related illness from collecting water from scoop holes.

"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 spinach and Kale. The water is now clean and readily available. We no longer have to walk for several kilometers in search of water," he continued.

Having ready access to water from the sand dam has made a difference for Titus, allowing him to dream of a future where his family is self-sufficient without worrying about how they will care for their farm.

When asked how this sand dam impacted his life, Titus said, "In the past year, I have planted numerous trees and ventured into small-scale 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."

Titus getting fresh water from the sand dam.

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 Kalawa 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 Kalawa 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.