Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 600 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jan 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/15/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

Nzimba's residents wake up as early as 6 a.m. to search for water so they do not have to walk in the scorching sun later in the day. The village of 600 people mostly uses an unprotected spring, but the water is contaminated. There is also a shallow well nearby, but people cannot drink the water because it is salty. There are two sand dams and dug-wells in other communities farther away, but most people cannot afford to waste the time and energy required to collect water from there.

To collect water suitable for drinking, they must walk to the public tap sourced from a protected spring. It is nearly three kilometers (1.86 miles) away for most residents, and they can only retrieve water one day a week. Understandably, there are very long queues that waste people's valuable time.

"We mostly get our drinking water from the public tap at Kasioni town, which is about three kilometers away. Walking there and back is exhausting and leaves little energy for other important activities such as farming," said farmer Kilonzo Kyulu, 49, shown below.

He continued, "The public tap is also usually overcrowded because it only offers water once or twice weekly, which is inadequate for the entire community. The recently built sand dam offers fresh and clean water, but the area is hilly and [it] is exhausting to acquire water from it."

Since most residents walk several kilometers to reach the current water points, they often cannot tend to their daily duties adequately when they return home. Their incomes suffer as a result, and their daily hygiene practices are lacking.

Munyao K., 11 (shown above), said, "Since this area is hilly, going to the public water after school to fetch drinking water is exhausting and leaves me with little energy or time to focus on my studies. Despite the presence of the two sand dams and shallow wells in the region, the water is still inadequate for the entire community because of the long drought periods. We have to use the water sparingly, and therefore we cannot irrigate our farms to improve food security, and we still experience low levels of hygiene and sanitation."

This community needs its own safe, reliable water source located a reasonable distance from community members. Having a water point will allow people to maintain the time and energy required to conduct other vital tasks like increasing their livelihoods, practicing good daily hygiene, and studying.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Kasilu 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 Kasilu 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

January, 2023: Nzimba Community Sand Dam Project Complete!

Nzimba, 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 will no longer have to walk several kilometers to fetch water for my family or livestock to drink," said 16-year-old Mwangangi M. "Since I am mostly tasked with herding our goats and cows, getting them to this water point will be easy, and I can use the extra time [I gain] to concentrate on my studies. We will also have enough clean water to drink at home."

Mwangangi at the well with the dam behind him.

"In the past, I had to walk for almost two kilometers to the nearest protected shallow well to fetch water for drinking," Mwangangi continued. "Although I often used a donkey, the journey [was] time-consuming. Now, I will have more time to help my family [with] farming activities during [my school] holidays. Also, I'll have more time to study or spend with my friends at home."

Adults were just as excited about the new water source.

"I will able to access this water point because it is close to my home," said 68-year-old farmer Mumboi Kalethi. "I will no longer have to spend several hours to get to the nearest shallow well. It will also sufficient water for irrigation, and I can use the extra time and energy cultivating my crops."

Mumboi at the well.

"By planting various vegetables and fruit trees, I will be able to offer a stable and balanced diet to my family," Mumboi continued. "I will also be able to sell the surplus and use the income to offset my children's school fees and other basic needs. Hygiene and sanitation at personal and domestic levels will also improve because I will have adequate water for cleaning."

The water in this photo is not totally clear, but that is to be expected! When a hand-dug well is first constructed, it sometimes takes a while for the sediment at the bottom to settle and for the water to become clear. We will send an update as soon as it settles.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Kasilu 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.

Stone ready for building!

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 39 meters long and five meters high and took 1,850 bags of cement to build.

The dam has already begun to 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

As we’ve worked with this Self-Helf Group in the past, we conferred with them about the subjects they most needed refresher training on. The training took place on a day early in the water source construction timeline when everyone was taking a break.

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.

One of the members posed a question that sparked an interesting discussion. Our training highlights the need for community members to visit a doctor or clinic whenever they have concerning symptoms. But this community member had never visited a doctor before and wanted to know how best to describe his symptoms to a healthcare provider. He said it would be easy to describe something like a constant pain in his knee, but he had symptoms that came and went, and were never in the same place.

Our field officers and his fellow Self-Help Group Members highlighted the need to be specific about symptoms' location, duration, and type (i.e. stabbing pain versus a dull ache). After this discussion, he felt better about visiting the clinic and promised to do so as soon as he was able.

Community members also expressed their happiness with having been taught soap-making skills in previous training sessions. During this training, we added instructions on how to make household detergent and latrine disinfectant. With this new water source, which will make making these essentials even easier, some of the community members plan to embark on soap- and detergent-making full-time for sale to nearby schools and markets, which will earn their households extra income.

Looking Ahead

The new water source will make everyday tasks so much easier. This group has already started to bring their dreams of agricultural greatness to fruition by starting a tree nursery. Once these trees mature, they can be planted. These will, in turn, encourage a healthier ecosystem with more frequent rainfall — a sign of hope and restoration for the people of Nzimba.


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!

November, 2022: Nzimba Community Sand Dam Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Nzimba 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!

Muema Making Improvements Thanks to Water!

April, 2024

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

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Nzimba Community 3A.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Nzimba Community 3A 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!

Forty-year-old Muema Manzi recalled what life was like in the Nzimba Community before his community’s sand dam was implemented last year.

“We experienced water scarcity because this area is semi-arid, and the nearby rivers are seasonal. We used to walk over five kilometers (over 3 miles) to [the] nearest waterpoint. We also lacked sufficient water for human and cattle consumption,” said Muema.

"Getting [water] was such a difficult ordeal in our community because one could even spend an entire day walking to the river [and] then back home. I would carry water on my back or use a donkey, but the journey was exhausting. I had to wake up early in the morning to go and fetch water where I could find long queues, especially during the drought period. Fetching water was the main order of the day in this community, [and] even the children would spend their holidays and leisure time fetching water," continued Muema.

Collecting water is now more accessible and more convenient for Muema and the other community members in Nzimba.

“I now spend less time looking for water because the water point is nearby and offers a steady supply of water even during the dry months. This water is very close to my home, and my goats and cattle do not have to walk several kilometers searching for water to drink. It takes less than half an hour to draw water from this established water point because it is only a few meters from my home, unlike before when I had to walk up to five kilometers to draw fresh drinking water," shared Muema.

Having ready access to water from the sand dam has made a difference for Muema, allowing him to use water for multiple projects that benefit his family.

"This water point is very close to my home, and fetching water is very easy and time-efficient. I have been practicing farming and rearing my cattle. It has also allowed us to achieve higher hygiene and sanitation standards because I get enough water to practice good hygiene practices. We also eat vegetables often because we have cultivated kales and spinach for subsistence and commercial purposes," said Muema.

"We have also been able to nurture a tree nursery and distribute the trees for planting amongst ourselves. I can now plant trees because of the sand dam’s water availability, which will change my environment in the long term," Muema shared.

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 Nzimba Community 3A 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 Nzimba Community 3A – 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.


12 individual donor(s)