Project Status

Project Type:  Sand Dam

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jan 2024

Functionality Status:  Functional

Project Features

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Community Profile

The 500 people of the Kilela Community spend hours a day struggling to find and collect sufficient water.

"The scoop hole, [the] main source of water in the area, has a low quantity of water. The low quantity of water from the water point has led to quarrels between community members because everyone wants to finish up and concentrate on other affairs. The scoop hole cannot satisfy the entire population, and the situation worsens during peak drought periods," shared field officer Alex Koech.

The scoop holes in the local riverbed are several kilometers away from people's homes. Expending so much physical energy to find and collect water leaves people exhausted, fighting for survival, and unable to accomplish their daily tasks.

"Ndatani River is located far away, and helping my family fetch water in the evening depletes my spare time. Thus, I get little time to concentrate on my homework," said 12-year-old Josphat K. (on the right collecting water in the photo below).

"We have a serious water scarcity problem in our community. I get tired from waking up every morning to fetch water from the distant Ndatani River. I often return home towards [the] late afternoon with little energy and time to focus on activities like tending to my goats, which seem to thrive in the semi-arid climate," said 49-year-old farmer Caroline Mwathai Mumbu, shown below collecting water.

The muddy, sandy water people manage to collect is contaminated, and when they drink it, they often contract water-related illnesses that cause unnecessary suffering and consume their limited resources.

The installation of a sand dam will enable people like Josphat and Caroline to collect sufficient, clean water so they can experience better health and maintain their time and resources in hopes of a brighter future.

The Proposed Solution, Determined Together...

At The Water Project, everyone has a part in conversations and solutions. We operate in transparency, believing it benefits everyone. We expect reliability from one another as well as our water solutions. Everyone involved makes this possible through hard work and dedication.

In a joint discovery process, community members determine their most advantageous water solution alongside our technical experts. Read more specifics about this solution on the What We're Building tab of this project page. Then, community members lend their support by collecting needed construction materials (sometimes for months ahead of time!), providing labor alongside our artisans, sheltering and feeding the builders, and supplying additional resources.

Water Access for Everyone

This water project is one piece in a large puzzle. In Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, we’re working toward complete coverage of reliable, maintained water sources that guarantee public access now and in the future within a 30-minute round trip for each community, household, school, and health center. One day, we hope to report that this has been achieved!

Training on Health, Hygiene & More

With the community’s input, we've identified topics where training will increase positive health outcomes at personal, household, and community levels. We’ll coordinate with them to find the best training date. Some examples of what we train communities on are:

  • Improved hygiene, health, and sanitation habits
  • Safe water handling, storage & treatment
  • Disease prevention and proper handwashing
  • Income-generation
  • Community leadership, governance, & election of a water committee
  • Operation and maintenance of the water point

Project Updates

January, 2024: Kilela Community Sand Dam Complete!

Kilela 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.

"I am very happy that this water point has been installed in our village because I will no longer spend most of my time and energy drawing water from the distant scoop holes. I would take about 4 hours daily or more. I had to wake up early to draw water because the water point could not sustain the entire neighborhood and would run low. Quarrels at the water point were also common and frustrating because someone would jump the queue. Now I am happy that this water point offers enough clean water for all of us, and I will now be able to drink clean water and improve hygiene," said 29-year-old farmer Fridah Ndanu.

Fridah collecting water.

"This water point will help me accomplish a glut of activities, such as getting enough clean water for drinking, which does not expose me and my family to infections. Besides drinking clean water, my cattle and goats will easily drink water. I will be able to cultivate vegetables to supplement my family's daily diet. We will also use the water to irrigate the trees we have planted in our area and improve the micro-climate in the long term," concluded Fridah.

Sand Dam Construction Process

The members of the Kilela 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 76 meters long and 3 meters high and took 955 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

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.

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. Finally, we covered natural resource management and the operation and maintenance of the sand dam.

The area assistant chief attended the training. He emphasized the importance of hygiene observation, insisting that handwashing, among other practices, is the only thing that keeps one away from diseases.

Learning about a tippy tap hand washing station.

"The training has taught us very important practices like cleaning our compounds, handwashing with clean running water, having a latrine squat hole cover, cooking our food well and keeping it covered, and drinking treated water, among other hygienic practices. This will help us in the prevention and control of fecal-oral route disease transmission," said 50-year-old farmer and chairperson of the water user committee Christine Nzuna Kyumbulo.

Participants learn how to make soap.

"We have also known the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene like brushing teeth, keeping short nails, [and] sleeping in a clean bed with [a] treated mosquito net, among other practices. We have also learned that it is important to eat healthily. This training has shown us the different types of foods that we can source locally because we have them, and it has insisted on the importance of every member having a kitchen garden. This will also keep us healthy, boost our immune systems, and be free of diseases. The new skills learned on soap and latrine disinfectant making will help us reduce the cost of living and foster financial independence. This training is so inclusive; it touches all ages, and I believe everyone reached will change and have healthy and wealthy communities," concluded Christine.


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 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: Kilela Community Sand Dam Underway!

The lack of adequate water in Kilela 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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