Project Status

Project Type:  Protected Spring

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 350 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jan 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 07/03/2024

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

Please note: original photos predate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shemema Spring is located in Mukhweso Community. Most members of this community are farmers, and since (at the time of writing) it is a rainy season, farm work is evident in every homestead. They have semi-permanent and permanent structures in this village. The access road is passable, and there is also electricity in the area. With the coronavirus threat, the community is particularly busy since children are now home, and families have to work extra hard to feed their children.

Most people here wake up at 6:00 am to fetch water from Shemema Spring before it becomes too dirty. If it rained at night, however, then the water will already be dirty, and they have to wait for the dirt to settle. Community members do their house chores until around 9:00 am. Then they head to their farm or business to work. At around midday, the farm work stops, then people fetch more water for lunch and washing of utensils and bathing after lunch.

Afternoon chores include fetching firewood, washing clothes, and looking for what to prepare for dinner. The coronavirus has stopped any social gatherings, so people keep themselves busy observing physical distancing at all timed. The community here is dutifully adhering to handwashing with soap as a preventative measure. In the evening, people fetch more water for cooking and bathing. Most people head to bed by 9:00pm.

Though it is a central aspect of everyday life for the 350 people who depend on Shemema Spring for water, the spring does not provide clean or safe water. The spring is contaminated by surface runoff, which carries with it farm chemicals and animal waste. The terrain leading up to the spring is slippery with mud, especially during the rainy season, and the area directly around the spring is a pool of water.

Community members have tried to improvise a discharge pipe by inserting an iron sheet directly into the ground, but the sheet inevitably comes loose, shifts around, and rusts. Conflict arises when one community member accuses another of moving the iron sheet, stirring up more mud and sand in the water.

Sometimes the water becomes so dirty that they have to sift it for sand and dirt before using it, community members report. Other times, "insects are inside the water, and I am afraid to drink it," said young teenager Oliver.

Though people try to wait between water users to allow any dirt to settle, with so many people, the wait time is often minimal or nonexistent. There are already crowds at the spring as people wait their turn for water. This is especially troubling during the pandemic when people are trying to limit their time in groups and public.

The most common waterborne diseases reported in this part of Mukhweso are diarrhea, amoeba, and typhoid. Sometimes people get headaches and body rashes, too.  50-year-old farmer Eunice Ateya attested to becoming sick from this water and noted that even her cow does not drink the spring water if it is too dirty. So what does that say of the water's quality for people?

Even when other seasonal springs go dry in the area, Shemema Spring remains flowing. After passing our rigorous pre-assessment, we think Shemema Spring is an ideal candidate for protection with the potential to change many lives.

What We Can Do:

Spring Protection

Protecting the spring will help provide access to cleaner and safer water and reduce the time people have to spend to fetch it. Construction will keep surface runoff and other contaminants out of the water. With the community’s high involvement in the process, there should be a good sense of responsibility and ownership for the new clean water source.

Fetching water is a task predominantly carried out by women and young girls. Protecting the spring and offering training and support will, therefore, help empower the female members of the community by freeing up more of their time and energy to engage and invest in income-generating activities and their education.

Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19, and More

To hold trainings during the pandemic, we work closely with both community leaders and the local government to approve small groups to attend training. We ask community leaders to invite a select yet representative group of people to attend training who will then act as ambassadors to the rest of the community to share what they learn. We also communicate our expectations of physical distancing and wearing masks for all who choose to attend.

The training will focus on improved hygiene, health, and sanitation habits in this community. We will also have a dedicated session on COVID-19 symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention best practices.

With the community’s input, we will identify key leverage points where they can alter their practices at the personal, household, and community levels to affect change. This training will help to ensure participants have the knowledge they need about healthy practices and their importance to make the most of their water point as soon as water is flowing.

Our team of facilitators will use a variety of methods to train community members. Some of these methods include participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation, asset-based community development, group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring.

One of the most important issues we plan to cover is the handling, storage, and treatment of water. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated by the time it is consumed. We and the community strongly 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 will then conduct a small series of follow-up trainings before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.

Training will result in the formation of a water user committee, elected by their peers, that will oversee the operations and maintenance of the spring. The committee will enforce proper behavior around the spring and delegate tasks that will help preserve the site, such as building a fence and digging proper drainage channels. The fence will keep out destructive animals and unwanted waste, and the drainage will keep the area’s mosquito population at a minimum.

Sanitation Platforms

At the end of training, participants will select 5 families that should benefit from new concrete latrine floors called sanitation platforms. Training will inform the community and selected families on what they need to contribute to make this project a success. They must mobilize locally available materials, including bricks, clean sand, and gravel. The 5 families chosen for sanitation platforms must prepare by sinking a pit for the sanitation platforms to be placed over.

All community members must work together to make sure that accommodations and food are always provided for the work teams. The families will then be asked to complete their latrines by constructing a superstructure over their platforms. These 5 sanitation platforms will then serve as examples for the rest of the community to replicate.

Project Updates

January, 2021: Mukhweso Community, Shemema Spring Project Complete!

Mukhweso Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Shemema Spring into a flowing water source with a whopping three discharge pipes, thanks to your donation. Our team protected the spring, constructed five sanitation platforms for different households in the community, and trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices, including COVID-19 prevention.

Protected Shemema Spring

"I am so glad because my villagers and I are going to enjoy safe water for drinking, which will make us healthy and enable us to continue with our daily activities without any problem. I will be able to do farming of vegetables now that I have enough and reliable water, and also hold meetings of my community members easily," said Pius Shemema, the village elder.

Thumbs up for clean flowing water

Children were just as excited as the adults about the new water point.

"I will be able to drink water with confidence because it's now clean and safe, free from infections. I will be able to concentrate on my studies when we go back to school and work hard to achieve my dream of being a doctor," said primary school student Esther.

Esther fetches water at the spring.

Preparing for Spring Protection

Community members worked together to source and carry all locally available construction materials to the spring. These included bricks, sand, stones, and fencing poles. Some people also chiseled away at large stones to break them down into gravel. Because people have to carry most items by hand, the materials collection process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.

Community members of all ages helped deliver construction materials to the spring site.

When everything was prepared, we sent a lorry to the community to deliver the rest of the construction materials, including the cement, plastic tarps, and hardware. Then, our artisan and field officers deployed to the spring to begin work. Individual households provided meals throughout each day to sustain the work team.

From Open Source to Protected Spring: A Step-by-Step Process

At last, it was time to dig in at the spring! Women and men lent their strength to the artisan each day to help with the manual labor. This community demonstrated a particularly high commitment to this project, coming together each day in teamwork and good faith to work on the project.

First, we cleared and excavated the spring area. We dug a drainage channel below the spring and several surface runoff diversion channels above and around the spring. These help to divert environmental contaminants carried by the rains away from the spring.


To ensure community members could still fetch water throughout the construction process, we also dug temporary diversion channels from the spring’s eye around the construction site. This allowed water to flow without severely disrupting community members’ water needs or construction work.

Pouring the foundation

Excavation created space for setting the spring’s foundation made of thick plastic tarp, wire mesh, concrete, and waterproof cement. After setting the base, we started brickwork to build the headwall, wing walls, and stairs.

Bricklaying begins

Next, we began one of the most crucial spring protection steps to ensure a fully functional water point: setting the discharge pipe. Shemema Spring's natural yield was so high that we installed three discharge pipes instead of the typical one to improve community members' access to clean water.

Setting the three discharge pipes in the headwall

The discharge pipes have to be low enough in the headwall so that the water level inside never rises above the spring’s eye, yet high enough to leave eighteen to twenty inches between the pipes and the spring floor to allow room for the average jerrycan (a 20-liter container) to sit beneath the pipes without making contact.

Plastering the stone pitching to form the rub walls

If the discharge pipes were placed too high above the spring’s eye, too much backpressure could force the flow to emerge elsewhere. Too low, and community members would not be able to access the water easily. We embedded the pipes using clay (or mortar when the clay is in short supply) and placed it at a slight incline to ensure water flows in the right direction.

Plastering the brickwork begins

In coordination with brickwork, we pitched medium to large stones on both sides of the spring’s drainage channel. We then cemented and plastered each stone group into place, forming the rub walls. These help to discourage people and animals from trying to stand on that area, which could cause soil erosion and thus a clogged drainage area.

Stairs construction

With brickwork and stone pitching completed, we turned to cementing and plastering both sides of the headwall and wing walls. These finishing layers reinforce the brickwork and prevent water in the reservoir from seeping through the walls. In turn, enough pressure builds in the reservoir box to push water out through the discharge pipe.

Setting the tiles

As the headwall and wing walls were curing, we cemented and plastered the stairs and installed four tiles beneath the discharge pipe. The tiles protect the concrete from the falling water's erosive force while also beautifying the spring and facilitating easy cleaning of the spring floor.

Passing globs of clay to begin the backfilling process

We transitioned to the final stages of construction with the tiles in place - backfilling the reservoir box. First, we cleared the collection box of any debris that may have fallen in since its construction, such as dead leaves or other items. Then we redirected the temporary diversion channels back into the reservoir box, channeling water into this area for the first time. We closed off all of the other exits to start forcing the water through the discharge pipes only.

Lots of teamwork involved to roll the largest stones into place

With much help from the community, we filled up the reservoir area with the clean and large stones they gathered, arranging them in layers like a well-fitting puzzle. We covered the stones with a thick plastic tarp to minimize potential contamination sources from aboveground, followed by a layer of soil. We piled enough soil on top to create a slight mound to compensate for the backfill’s future settlement.

Passing smaller stones to place over the larger ones in the backfilled area

Community members transplanted grass onto the backfilled soil to help prevent erosion. Finally, the collection area was fenced in to discourage any person or animal from walking on it since compaction can lead to disturbances in the backfill layers and potentially compromise water quality.

Constructing the fence around the spring's catchment area

The entire construction process took about two weeks of work and patience to allow the cement and plaster to finish curing. As soon as it was ready, people got the okay from our field officers to fetch water. Lead Field Officer for the project Jacqueyu Kangu officially handed over the spring to the community members directly the following training to mark the water point's ownership. Community members celebrated by dancing and singing songs praising God and all who helped make the spring's protection a reality.

Sanitation Platforms

We completed all five sanitation platforms and handed them over to their new owners. These five families are happy about this milestone of having a private latrine of their own and are optimistic that people will no longer leave waste outdoors. We are continuing to encourage families to finish building walls and roofs over their new latrine floors, and for other families to replicate the design after having helped construct these examples.

Field Officer Jacquey and Pius Shemema's family give thumbs up for their newly completed sanitation platform.

Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19 and More

Due to the ongoing challenges and restrictions amidst the pandemic, we worked with both local leaders and the national Ministry of Health to gain approval for a small group training about health, hygiene, and COVID-19 prevention.

Facilitator Adelaide addresses the community members at training.

Together with the community, we found their preferred date for training while considering other community calendar events such as the agricultural season and social events. We requested a select yet representative group of community members to attend training, relaying the information learned to the rest of their family and friends. When the day arrived, Team Leader Emmah Nambuye deployed to the site with a team of trainers to lead the event.

Community member Susan Andaya demonstrates toothbrushing during the dental hygiene session.

29 people attended training, including local leaders and the area's Community Health Volunteer. We held the training at Mr. Shemema's home, which is only about twenty meters away from the spring. This was conducive to the training sessions requiring water and the ones on-site at the spring. His homestead also had enough space for everyone to spread out to observe physical distancing. We did expect more people to attend, but as it happened, some community members were attending a burial that day.

Trainer Julius demonstrates the ten steps of handwashing.

Perhaps the most important topic of the day was our session on COVID-19 prevention. There has been considerable tension and panic about the novel coronavirus throughout Kenya, so this was a session everyone eagerly participated in, the trainers noted.

Handwashing practice

We covered crucial COVID-19 prevention topics including:

- Information on the symptoms and transmission routes of COVID-19;

- What physical distancing is and how to practice it;

- How to cough and sneeze into the elbow;

- Contactless greetings; and

- How to make and properly wear a facemask.

Trainers sewing masks

Due to the rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19, we dedicated time to a question and answer session to help debunk rumors about the disease and provide extra information where needed. We also left behind a rice sack painted with messages of COVID-19 prevention reminders in the local language. We affixed the sign to the spring's fence during training and encouraged community members to use it as a daily reminder to stay cautious both at home and at the spring.

Participants engaged actively throughout the training and had many questions.

"Through the training, I have learned more ways of preventing the COVID-19 infection, such as washing hands regularly with soap and running water for 20 seconds and seeking medical attention in case I feel unwell. This new knowledge will help me to live a COVID-19 free life and even educate others, including my customers," said Mevis Achieng', a hairdresser in the community.

Trainer Adelaide fits a mask made at training to community member Susan Andaya.

Mevis added that while she was already washing hands, avoiding crowded places, and observing physical distancing, she would be taking even more precautionary steps with the knowledge gained at training. These included "mask-making and wearing in all public places, and washing hands regularly with soap and running water for 20 seconds, including before and after drawing water at the water point."

Mevis Achieng' with her son

We covered several other topics, including community participation in the project; leadership and governance; personal and environmental hygiene; water handling and treatment; operation and maintenance of the spring and sanitation platforms; dental hygiene; the ten steps of handwashing, and how to make and use a tippy tap and leaky tin. We held an election for the newly formed water user committee leaders during the leadership and governance session.

It was all smiles at the spring.

We also brainstormed income-generating activities that can be used to start both a community savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop their own small businesses. This session ended up overlapping with the leadership and governance training, in which the community members suggested they contribute 50 Kenyan Shilling (~46 cents) each month per household that uses the spring. These funds would go toward any minor repairs that might arise at the spring and eventually help the group carry out income-generating activities of their choice.

The most memorable topic was primary health care. This is because most community members confessed they did not previously have information about the importance of washing beddings every day for their children who wet their beds at night. Some said their children had had skin infections for a long time without responding to medication, but now they knew why. With water availability from the protected spring, they'll ensure to adhere to the information and be agents for improved hygiene and sanitation in the entire community.

"I learned a lot concerning hygiene, which involved personal, food, and environmental hygiene. This new knowledge will help me live healthy together with my family members and improve our economic status," said Susan Andaya, who runs her own small business and whose peers elected her Secretary of the new water user committee.

Field Officer Jacquey hands over Shemema Spring to the community.

When an issue arises concerning the water project, the water user committee is equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water point works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact our field officers' team to assist them. We will also continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

December, 2020: Mukhweso Community, Shemema Spring Project Underway!

Dirty water from Shemema Spring is making people in Mukhweso 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 Videos

Project Photos

Project Type

Springs are water sources that come from deep underground, where the water is filtered through natural layers until it is clean enough to drink. Once the water pushes through the surface of the Earth, however, outside elements like waste and runoff can contaminate the water quickly. We protect spring sources from contamination with a simple waterproof cement structure surrounding layers of clay, stone, and soil. This construction channels the spring’s water through a discharge pipe, making water collection easier, faster, and cleaner. Each spring protection also includes a chlorine dispenser at the waterpoint so community members can be assured that the water they are drinking is entirely safe. Learn more here!

A Year Later: Improved Health and More Time!

January, 2022

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mukhweso Community 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!

Before the new protected spring was installed, life in Mukhweso Community was difficult. Community members would waste a significant amount of time scooping water.

"It was difficult because the environment of the water was not suitable," said Helen Kweyu, 37, who is chairperson of the Mukheso water user committee.

The last year has made a dramatic difference for Helen. "Now, it is fantastic since the water is safe and protected. It has impacted and improved our health. It has helped to utilize my time since I don't waste time fetching the water. It has also helped me to access the water point easily."

In this photo, Helen is on the right in the green shirt.

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 Mukhweso Community 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 Mukhweso Community – 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.


LTA's Campaign for Water
4 individual donor(s)