Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 300 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - May 2024

Functionality Status:  Functional

Project Features

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Community Profile

The 1500 people living in Ngutho Community do not have access to sufficient, safe water to meet their daily water needs for drinking, watering animals, irrigation for crops, cooking, and maintaining proper hygiene and sanitation.

The community's residents must walk six kilometers (3.5 miles) round trip to fetch water from another community's borehole, where they purchase water from a kiosk despite their already-drained financial resources.

But the water dispensary only provides salty water that cannot be used for irrigation and shouldn't be consumed without treatment. People wait in long queues, often spending up to three hours waiting for their turn, and then carry it home on their backs or by donkey.

“When water comes from improved and more accessible sources, people spend less time and effort in physically collecting it, meaning they can be productive in other ways.” - WHO

"Water scarcity has led to poor [crop] yields, and getting water for irrigation is difficult. It has not rained for the past three years, leading to little water or pasture for my cattle, hence poor yields. I cannot improve my level of income because I do not have water for irrigation," said 38-year-old farmer and secretary of the community's self-help group Ezekiel Munuve, shown below in the mauve shirt, carrying water.

Acute water shortages, especially during peak drought periods, have a ripple effect on the community. Not only do crops and incomes diminish, as Ezekiel mentioned, but everything suffers when water is unavailable.

Food production decreases, personal hygiene becomes challenging, and the community's sanitation suffers, creating a breeding ground for water-related illnesses.

According to Ezekiel, residents regularly experience stomachaches, typhoid, and amoeba from consuming the water untreated. They also fall into debt when they have no money for medical bills from water-related illnesses. And sometimes, there is no medicine at the local health center because of the high community population.

People expend so much of their energy finding and collecting water that they have no reserves left to fight illness or find time for other essential things critical to improving one's life.

"Water is sparingly used at home; thus, I cannot conduct proper hygiene and sanitation. I also have to help out during weekends and after class to fetch water; hence I get little play and remedial time, which affects my studies in school. For instance, I am on a school holiday, but I have had to wake up early and fetch water. I will walk back home during the afternoon because of the long queue," said 17-year-old Elizabeth M., shown below using a scarf around her head to carry water.

This community needs a reliable water source close enough for people to quickly access safe water to regain their time and health and improve their daily lives.

Note: Our proposed water point can only serve 300 people per day. We are working with the community to identify other water solutions that will ensure all 1,500 people in Ngutho have access to safe and reliable drinking water.

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

May, 2024: Ngutho Community Sand Dam Complete!

Ngutho 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 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.

Celebrating the completed sand dam.

"I will no longer have to spend several hours searching for water to drink and for my livestock because this water point is close to my home. In the past, I would walk to Nguuni River, which is 3 km away, and I would spend the entire day waiting for my turn because of overcrowding. I will have more time now to focus on activities like land preparation or performing chores at home. I will also have enough water to grow vegetables and plant trees [on] my farm," said 75-year-old farmer Musyoki Mwengi.

"The long journey to the water point was tiresome and had a negative impact on my health, especially due to my old age. I would return home feeling pain in my knees, back, and legs. That will no longer be the case because I do not have to go far to draw water; thus, my health will improve. I will also have enough water to grow vegetables in my home, which will ensure a daily balanced diet," said Musyoki.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of Muuo Wa Ngutho 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.

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 35 meters long and 5 meters high and took 1519 bags of cement to build.

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.

The training took place near the construction site under a shade tree on a cold and sunny day. All the group members participated fully by asking questions and giving input during the discussions.

One of the sessions focused on malaria and how to prevent it. The group members were taught that malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. They learned that mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, which hatch into larvae, eventually emerging as adult mosquitoes. By the end of the session, the group understood that malaria is preventable and curable.

Learning how to make soap.

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.

Using a tippy tap hand washing station.

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 well.


"The latrine disinfectant and soap preparation exercises were extremely rewarding for the group. Members of the group have gained confidence and responsibility for their own projects and have a clear say in what they want for sustainable development. Sanitation is enriched in the millennium development goals and is a cornerstone of the fight against poverty. Lack of basic sanitation puts millions of lives at risk, hence high morbidity and mortality in developing countries," said 44-year-old farmer Ezekiel Muuo.


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!

March, 2024: Ngutho Community Sand Dam Underway!

The lack of adequate water in Ngutho 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!


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