Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 350 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Apr 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 12/13/2023

Project Features

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Water is rationed in Syunoo community. After seeing where they must fetch water from every day, this fact is not surprising.

The implications of this are far-reaching. The 350 community members find it difficult to keep up farming and livestock-rearing activities because they don't have enough water to water their crops or properly feed their animals. But unless someone in each household spends an entire day just going back and forth to the dry riverbed (a distance of 8 kilometers - almost 5 miles!), there simply isn't enough water to go around.

"The water from the scoop holes is mostly salty, making it unsuitable for drinking or farming," explained Elizabeth Musembi, 46, shown below transferring water from a jerrycan at her house.

"Water scarcity in the region has also negatively affected hygiene and sanitation because water has to be used sparingly," Elizabeth continued. "Conducting farming is also difficult because the little available water is not enough for watering crops, which has led to food insecurity and lack of a source of income during the long drought periods."

The long distance water-fetchers walk under the scorching sun exhausts them, and the contaminated water sickens them with stomach upsets, typhoid, amoebas, and dysentery. These sick and tired people are unable to focus on farming, which is their main source of income and food security.

"I have to carry water from home when going to school, which leads to [an] inability to concentrate fully on my studies," said 12-year-old Ken M., shown fetching water from a scoophole on the dry riverbed, below. "Practicing personal hygiene is also impossible."

"I also have to go fetch water from the scoopholes after school, which further consumes my play and study time," Ken continued. "I have contracted typhoid and amoeba in the past, leading to school absenteeism and ultimately poor academic performance."

With a sand dam and well closeby, the people of Syunoo will have so much more time and energy with which to dream and accomplish their goals. Their health will no longer be threatened by water-related disease.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Kiisu 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 Kiisu 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

April, 2023: Syunoo Community Sand Dam Complete!

Syunoo, Kenya now has access to a new water source thanks to your donation! We constructed a new sand dam on the riverbed to 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 happy that this water point has been implemented in our community because I will have enough water for drinking, cooking, and conducting hygiene chores. I will not be walking to the distant Enziu river, that's located 7km away. I will use the spare time to focus more on farming, and I will be able to irrigate my vegetables using water from this water point. I will also get more time to care [for] and be with my family because I will no longer be spending most of the day searching for water," said 33-year-old farmer Beatrice Mwanziu Mutui.

"I am planning to cultivate a vegetable garden that will entail kale, spinach, tomatoes, and more which will supplement my family's daily diet and enhance better health. I will also sell the vegetables to fellow community members, earning me a decent income."

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Kiisu Self-Help Group collected all the local materials, like rocks and sand, required to complete the dam. The collection of raw 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 72 meters long and 4 meters high and took 1390 bags of cement to build.

The dam will build up sand and store water as soon as it rains. 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 sometimes it only rains once a year in this region!

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 training was held at Kiisu Independent Presbyterian Church because of its central location, and attendance was as expected.

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.

A representative photo of a soap-making session.

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

During the session on disease transmission routes, the participants debated why some community members still practice open defecation despite having latrines at their homesteads.

"They all agreed to be on the frontline of educating the community on the dangers of open defecation to stop such practices," said field officer Alex Koech.

“The training was very good. I have learned how we can get sick by eating dirt. I have also learned simple methods of water treatment, which I can apply to make my drinking water clean and safe for drinking," said 70-year-old farmer and water user committee chairperson Patrick Munyoki Kiteme.


This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members. 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!

January, 2023: Syunoo Community Sand Dam Project Delayed!

It won't be long now before the construction of the sand dam in the Syunoo Community is complete. As you can imagine, coordinating all the people involved is key to a great project. The field officers meet frequently with the community, and recently there have been delays in obtaining materials and slowed work due to rain. Based on the last review, the community needs a few more weeks to complete construction. We've adjusted the expected completion date for this project, and we look forward to keeping you updated as the artisans and trainers continue their work in the coming months!

October, 2022: Syunoo Community Sand Dam Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Syunoo 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