Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 250 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Feb 2024

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/15/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

The 250 people of Muthungue would love to have enough water to accomplish all their daily tasks like cooking, cleaning, and laundry, but with the distance to the water point being so far, they simply can't manage it.

Because acquiring water takes such a long time, people in Muthungue get less of it. Without water to do essential daily tasks, people’s normal routines are disrupted, and important things like working and going to school are challenging.

Rather than making the several-kilometer journey to the nearest protected shallow well, some community members opt to fetch water from closer, less reliable sources: holes dug into dry riverbeds shared with wildlife and domestic animals. But this understandable compromise has consequences for their health, given that these sources are salty and contaminated.

"At times, I often get stomach upsets, especially when it's very dry and the sun is scorching, because I tend to dig a scoop hole nearby so that I reduce the distance," said 11-year-old Eunice M (pictured below).

Others within the same Self-Help Group have built sand dams with shallow wells in the best spot to ensure that water stays where it's needed. However, those on the fringes of the community have the same problems as before these interventions were made.

"Water scarcity currently is affecting me as my family lives very far [away] from the sand dam already constructed," said Eunice. "I have to walk long distances when I come back from school to get water. There are sand dams in the area, but [they] currently don't serve the whole community and the larger part. If we get another sand dam, it will be a boost for us because we will walk short distances. I will also be able to attend to other duties at my home and work on proper hygiene and sanitation. I shall also get to have enough time to play and do my homework."

"Members opt to fetch water from other sources such as scoop holes, which are prone to contamination, and therefore [they fall] sick," said farmer Phoebe Mutei Kitheka (pictured below). "Sometimes, when it gets very dry here, the shallow wells get flocked, forcing half of the population to look for water in the scoop holes."

Phoebe shared why another sand dam and shallow well will help solve the community's problem. "If we get another sand dam in the area, we will be able to harvest more water for the community to use and also reduce the distance covered by members. This will reduce the sicknesses reported, especially for community members who don't have easy access to clean water. Implementing another sand dam will assure a larger percentage of the community [has] access to clean water for drinking, cleaning, cooking, and agricultural activities, hence improving our income security."

What We Can Do:

Our main entry point into the community is the 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 the many 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 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

February, 2024: Muthungue Community Sand Dam Complete!

Muthungue Community, 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.

"When I was not in school, I had to help my parents draw water from the scoop holes about 5 kilometers from home. Apart from [the] wastage of time and energy, I would experience pain in my leg muscles and had to spend the rest of the day resting. That will no longer be [the] scenario because this water point is close to my home, and I can spend the extra time on my studies or interacting with my friends," said 15-year-old George M.


"Going to school without taking a shower for days while wearing [an] unclean uniform would negatively [affect] my confidence in class because water had to be used sparingly at home. The little available water was mostly used for cooking and drinking. Also, the exhaustion from the long walks to the scoop holes affected my studies because I was often too tired with no time to focus on my studies. The implementation of this waterpoint near our home means I can conduct personal hygiene, and I do not have to embark on the long journey in search of water. I will get more time to study so that I can become an engineer in [the] future," continued George.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of the Muthungue Women's Self-Help Group collected all of 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.

The Self-Help Group collecting building materials.

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.

Building the timber frame for the sand dam.

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 41 meters long and 2 meters high and took 515 bags of cement to build.

The completed sand dam is already collecting water.

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 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. We covered natural resource management and the operations and maintenance of the sand dam.

The training covered how to make soap and disinfectant, so community members have that skill going forward to help improve their hygiene and possibly use it to provide more income.


This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members. 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 Kenya, Uganda, and Sierra Leone, we're working toward complete coverage. That means 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!

December, 2023: Muthungue Community Sand Dam Project Underway!

The lack of adequate water in Muthungue Community costs people time, energy, and health every single day. Clean water scarcity contributes to community instability and diminishes individuals’ personal progress.

But thanks to your recent generosity, things will soon improve here. We are now working to install a reliable water point and improve hygiene standards. We look forward to sharing inspiring news in the near future!

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!


18 individual donor(s)