Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 1,500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jan 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Project Features

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Community Profile

Water scarcity is becoming a significant challenge for people in southeastern Kenya, including the 1,500 community members of Kilia, who rely on the Kaiti River for their water. Still, since most of the rivers in this region are seasonal, they only contain water for a limited time period.

Since there is a desire to be the first to collect water to allow time to accomplish other daily tasks, most people in Kilia start their days very early, so they don't have to wait in long lines due to overcrowding. But the journey for some can take up to two hours. Understandably, it is exhausting to walk that far and even more so to make the return trip with full water containers. The only other option is a sand dam and well in a neighboring community, but the trek to collect water from there extends even farther.

"I do not like the idea of being sent or accompanying my mother to the river all the time after I come back from school, as it is hectic at times because of the distance," said nine-year-old Ndinda N. shown below walking with her mother after collecting water.

When the limited rainy season is over and water is scarce, community members collect water from scoop holes dug in the riverbed. The drier it gets, the deeper the holes must be to access water.

Fetching water here is a tiring and laborious task, but the worst part is that the water they collect after so much hard work is contaminated. The holes are wide open, with people and animals alike drinking from them. The risk of contracting water-related diseases such as bilharzia, typhoid, cholera, and amoeba is high.

Most community members rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. This region has fertile soil for growing crops, but farming activities do not thrive without sufficient water.

Farmer Benson Kawinzi, 63, shown below scooping water, said, "Water scarcity affects me in such a way that I can't do things I am supposed to do. I spend a lot of time searching for water instead of focusing on other developments."

The people of Kilia need a sand dam, so they have accessible, clean water near their homes. Having this access will allow them to farm, increase their incomes and hopefully have time to explore other areas of development.

What we can do:

Our main entry point into the community is the Kyeni Kya Kiia Nzou 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 Kyeni Kya Kiia Nzou 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

01/24/2023: Kilia Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kilia, 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.

Beth at the new shallow well splashing water held in place by the sand dam.

"Access to water from this point will enable me and my family to keep away from diseases," said 70-year-old Beth Mutuku. "We shall also save on time wasted going to fetch water and work on our farms to become more productive."

"I have been thinking about farming for quite [a] long [time] now," Beth continued. "I know if you think about farming, think water first. That's why I had to be part of the community implementing water projects. Now that the dam is complete, I shall grow vegetables for household uses and for sale, too. I have a target of making Ksh 20,000 every month so as to boost my income security."

"I shall use the water in various activities such as irrigation and [the] keeping of acquatic animals," said 17-year-old Faith. "I hope to become self-reliant because of access to water. I shall attain food and income security."

Faith in front of the sand dam.

"Although [our community constructed] another sand dam, our challenge was the distance to get water from it," Faith continued. "Now, life has become a bit easier, and I am hoping to be very successful in terms of farming. The road [to the other sand dam] was rocky and hilly. Here, I shall enjoy clean water near me."

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Kyeni Kya Kiianzou 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.

Self-Help Group members ferry materials.

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 73 meters long and three meters high and took 1,950 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

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.

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.

The most valuable topic during this training session was disease transmission, where our trainers helped community members identify households still lacking in necessary hygiene and sanitation features like latrines and dish racks to keep food and utensils off the ground.

"Under this topic, each member was required to give an input on [the] disease transmission routes discussion [as well as] when and how to implement the action plan, so no one is left behind," said trainer Christine.

People also enjoyed the refresher training on soap-making since it meant everyone could take home a bottle of soap after the training. While the soap was stirred, community members tried to recall bible verses from memory to pass the time.

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 Kilia.


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!

12/08/2022: Kilia Community Sand Dam Construction Underway!

Dirty water is making people in Kilia community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

Get to know this community through the narrative and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation, and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with news of success!

Project Photos

Project Type

Sand Dam

Seasonal streams (and the sand they carry) are trapped by dams, replenishing the water table and allowing for adjacent hand-dug wells. Almost completely led by community-supplied sweat and materials, and under the supervision of engineers, dams are strategically placed within those dry river-beds. The next time it rains, flood-waters are trapped.

With a sand dam, this trapped sand begins to hold millions of gallons of rainwater. Soon enough, sand reaches the top of the dam, allowing water to continue downstream – where it meets the next dam. The result? A regional water table is restored.


16 individual donor(s)