Project Status

Project Type:  Protected Spring

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 180 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jul 2020

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/03/2024

Project Features

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Life in Mukhuyu, Kenya

Chisombe Spring is located in the village Mukhuyu in a region known for producing sugarcane as a cash crop. Together with the other crops and trees grown there, the area looks very green. The environment ranges from fairly flat to gradual slopes. The communication networks in the area are still developing, and there is not a single tarmac road in the area. Yet, the majority of roads here are fairly good and even passable even in the rainy season.

Buildings in the community range from temporary to semi-permanent and permanent ones. The temporary ones are made of mud walls and grass-thatched roofs, while the semi-permanent ones are walled with mud and roofed with iron sheets. Permanent ones are made of bricks or soft stones at the walls and roofed with the iron sheets as well.

The most common livelihood in Mukhuyu is farming, which people depend on for both subsistence and cash crops. They grow sugar cane on a small scale as their cash crop, and they also grow sweet potatoes, cassava, beans, sorghum, and maize on a small scale for consumption though surpluses are taken for sale.

Mukhuyu is full of hard-working people. Neighbors assist each other with farming and harvesting. With repeated land fragmentation made over the years among people's plots, boundaries are made of temporary plants only.

During the plowing season, anyone whose farm plot is land-locked by others' plots are allowed to pass through others' lands with their plow without any complaints or worry. This is indeed a special place filled with unity.

Relying on Contaminated Water

Water is an essential commodity to everyone in this community, as in any place. The water crisis in Mukhuyu means everyone has to base their schedules on the distance and time it will take them to get to and from the water source at Chisombe Spring each day.

Every morning, women wake up at 6:00 am to prepare breakfast for their families before going to fetch water for drinking and other household chores to give them time to engage in other activities later. The priority is always going for water, and only afterward can other activities begin after ensuring there is sufficient water for daily use in each household.

Chisombe Spring serves 180 people, most of whom have to make 6 trips to the spring and back every day to fetch enough water for all of their drinking, cooking, and cleaning needs. On laundry days, that number increases. Each walk takes from 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on where community members live in relation to the spring.

That is a lot of time spent on fetching water, especially considering the water is not even safe for consumption.

Community members face a lot of challenges at the spring. The water point is not well-constructed, hence they can easily collect dirty water from the runoff that joins the spring water and mixes into what comes out of the discharge pipes. The runoff includes farm chemicals, animal waste, human waste, and dirt.

The other challenge is that for people to collect water from the spring, they must either step directly into the pool of water below the spring or awkwardly strain to reach the fixed plastic pipe straddling the water's edge. Either way is uncomfortable and can lead to tricky maneuvers trying to remove the full water container that can then lead to stumbles, spilled water, injuries, and more wasted time refilling containers.

"Upon arriving at Chisombe spring, I met some young girls and boys fetching water at the spring," recalled Field Officer Jonathan Mutai, the project manager for this community.

"Two were inside the pool of water at the drawing point, collecting water. This was not good to me because it was a cold evening and the kids had to step in the water."

Wet feet, shoes, and clothing can easily lead to illness when they do not get warm and dry soon enough. Jonathan also noted that though the water coming out of the spring's eye was clear, the water coming out of the pipes was not. This indicated how soon the water was being contaminated with runoff in its open state.

Malia, who works as a local businessperson and was drawing water at Chisombe spring, said that she has been a victim of typhoid and coughing after using water for drinking from the spring. According to her, the waterborne diseases are common in the area, especially during the rainy season of the year.

"Our spring does discharge a lot of water. But the problem is drawing water from it," Malia said.

"Every time I send my boy to come and fetch water here, on his return I usually find his trousers very wet because for him to collect water he has to step into a water pool at the collection point. We are kindly requesting you to consider our spring for construction so that we can end all the challenges associated with this spring."

Young teen Esther relayed similar frustrations with the spring as Malia.

"Drawing water from this spring is very challenging and hectic because every time you have to step in cold water in order to collect water. Sometimes you must be careful so as not to immerse the container to the dirty water in the drawing point."

Fortunately, Chisombe Spring has never gone dry and even in its unprotected state, its yield is strong enough that the community has improvised 2 discharge pipes to aid in collecting water. Once all of the spring's eyes are directed into the protected spring's catchment area, this yield should only improve and community members will be able to fetch water without having to deal with a pool of water.

Most of the pit latrines in this community are in poor shape. Their wooden bases get rotten with time due to leaky roofs, making the logs questionable in terms of their ability to hold someone's weight. At times the logs are prone to termite invasions as well, making them nonfunctional until the termites leave or chew through the wood entirely. Some people still share latrines with neighbors if they do not have their own.

Generally, good sanitation and hygiene practices in this community are wanting. We spotted very few dishracks and fewer clotheslines in household compounds, and no handwashing points.

What We Can Do:

Spring Protection

Protecting the spring will help provide access to cleaner and safer water. 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.


We will hold a 1-day intensive training on improved hygiene, health, and sanitation habits in this community. 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 Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST), Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring to cover a wide variety of topics.

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 will also emphasize the importance of handwashing. 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 series of follow-up trainings before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.

Training will result in the formation of a 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

July, 2020: Mukhuyu Community, Chisombe Spring Project Complete!

Mukhuyu Community now has access to clean water! Chisombe Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of water thanks to your donation. We protected the spring, constructed 5 sanitation platforms for different households in the community, and we trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices.

Women celebrate the completed spring

"Access to reliable, safe water will impact my life positively in that I will have limited or no hospital visits at all due to curbed waterborne diseases. The finances which have been used to treat waterborne and water-related diseases will help me in doing constructive development," said 33-year-old Dan Namutali, who works as a teacher.

"The water point will assist me to achieve my plans, which are to engage in sustainable agribusiness because this water is a running water which we must utilize to [earn] something extra for our families."

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

"Access to reliable, safe water will help me reduce my absenteeism to school. The challenges of regular headaches and coughing will be no more. I will be doing my homework on time and I will be able to do my other duties at home, like cleaning the compound and washing utensils, since the spring discharges water at a high speed which is quick to fetch," said primary school student Malia.


Preparing for Spring Protection

Please note, all pre-construction and construction photos were taken before social distancing recommendations went into effect.

Before community members were told to stay at home due to concerns about the coronavirus, they 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.

Everyone had a helping hand to lend; here, children help deliver sand

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. While the field officers traveled to and from the site each day throughout the construction process, the artisan remained in the community. To accommodate him, individual households provided meals and a place to sleep each night.

Women carry fresh sod to the spring site

The last step before construction commenced was taking a water sample from the unprotected spring. We sent the sample to a government laboratory for testing to identify the kinds of contaminants in the water before its protection. These often include fertilizers and pesticides from farms, animal and human feces, and any number of harmful bacteria. We then shared the test results with the community to identify extra steps they could take to help ensure the spring’s water remains clean and safe after protection.

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. 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 the environmental contaminants identified in the pre-construction water quality test.


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.

Community members help the artisan mix concrete for 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 the stairs.

Concrete foundation setting

Next, we began one of the most crucial steps of spring protection to ensure a fully functional water point: setting the discharge pipe. The discharge pipe has to be set low enough in place in the headwall so that the water level inside never rises above the spring’s eye, yet high enough to leave 18-20 inches between the pipe and the spring floor to allow room for the average jerrycan (a 20-liter container) to sit beneath the pipe without making contact.

Checking measurements on the headwall brickwork

If the discharge pipe 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 easily access the water. We embedded the pipe 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.

Setting the pipe

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.

Stone pitching

With brickwork and stone pitching completed, we turned to cement and plaster both sides of the headwall and wing walls. This reinforces the brickwork and prevents water in the reservoir from seeping through the walls. In turn, this builds enough pressure in the reservoir box to push water out through the discharge pipe.

Teamwork on the wall plastering

As the headwall and wing walls were curing, we cemented and plastered the stairs and installed 4 tiles beneath the discharge pipes. The tiles protect the concrete from the erosive force of the falling water, beautify the spring, and facilitate easy cleaning of the spring floor.

Setting the tiles

With the tiles in place, we transitioned to the final stages of construction - 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 pipe only.

Backfilling with stones

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 sources of contamination 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.

Adding the plastic tarp over the backfilled stones

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.

Leveling soil and planting grass over the spring

The entire construction process took about 2 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 begin fetching water.

The completed spring

While there was no dedication or handing over ceremony conducted at the spring after implementation was over, the community members were planning for a day of prayer and a thanksgiving ceremony at the spring site to thank God for the project.

Sanitation Platforms

All 5 sanitation platforms have been completed and handed over to their new owners. These 5 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.

New sanitation platform owners

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.

New sanitation platform owner

New Knowledge

Community member Mr. Amos Gombe helped organize the training in coordination with our team. Together we found the community’s preferred date for training while considering other events in the community calendar such as the agricultural season and expected gatherings. Then, Mr. Gombe went door to door informing the community members of the planned training date, time, and venue.

When the day arrived, Facilitators Jonathan Mutai, Wilson and Jacqueline Shigali, Wilson Kipchoge, and Jonathan Mutai deployed to the site. 26 people attended training, including the local Community Health Volunteer. The training was done at the spring site. This was chosen by the lead person Mr. Gombe, because according to him, converging community members at somebody's homestead would be translated into seeing the project as for an individual, not the group. The venue was good though the participants had to persevere through moderate sun at times.

Training near the spring

"The attendance was as expected [because] the day construction works started, we could easily tell the kind of people they were. This community was very united; the artisan could not go even for a brick [as they were brought to him]. Their unity made us anticipate high turn up during the training day, of which indeed they were slightly 1 head above what we were expecting," said Lead Field Officer for the project Jonathan Mutai.

At the time of training, the coronavirus was new in Kenya and many people had not yet heard about the disease. Likewise, social distancing and other precautionary measures, including wearing face masks, were new and highly challenged cultural norms. We asked participants to observe social distancing while attending training, and emphasized its importance and effectiveness in reducing the spread of the virus.

Facilitators emphasized the use of social distancing at training

We covered several topics including COVID-19 sensitization and prevention; 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 10 steps of handwashing, and how to make and use a tippy tap and leaky tin. During the leadership and governance session, we held an election for the leaders of the newly formed water user committee.

Trainer Jonathan teaches the 10 steps of handwashing

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, as well as a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop their own small businesses.

Ruth demonstrates handwashing

Since this training, we have developed trainings exclusively on COVID-19 prevention and awareness - see for yourself what we've been up to as we continue to fight COVID-19 on the frontlines in all of the communities we serve.

Trainer Jacqueline Shigali returns to the spring to install a chart with COVID-19 prevention reminders

"The training was very valuable to me. I personally learned that if we are not comply to hygiene and sanitation, we are the ones to feel pain or overspend on medication treating diseases that are easily controllable. The knowledge gained in training will impact my life greatly because now, I do have know-how on sanitation and hygiene."

Community members learn care and maintenance of the spring at training; here, cleaning the spring with water and rags

"Until today, I learned that I have been risking my family with waterborne diseases because for me, I do top up water for drinking always taking me a longer period to wash the container for storing drinking water - something which is very wrong," said 42-year-old farmer Consolata Atamba.

COVID-19 prevention reminders chart at the spring, in Kiswahili

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 team of field officers to assist them. In addition, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

June, 2020: Mukhuyu Community, Chisombe Spring Project Underway!

Dirty water from Chisombe Spring is making people in Mukhuyu 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

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!

Giving Update: Chisombe Spring

June, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Mukhuyu Community 5.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mukhuyu Community 5 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!

"Initially, getting water here was so disappointing. Imagine coming for water when it is very cold, and you have to step in water to fetch it. More so, during the dry spell, you could waste a lot of your time queuing for water because we did not capture all the possible water sources like they are now," said Lydia.

"Now fetching water is just amazing. You place your container under the discharge pipe, and within no time, the container is full. Currently, we are not wasting time at the water point. This has helped me gain time for doing homework or revision."

"Before implementing this water point, water borne and water related diseases were so rampant from water fetched here, especially for young kids like me. So in most cases, I could miss going to school because of those water borne and water related diseases. But since implementation, I rarely miss going to school. Only during Covid 19 disease, when school was closed, did I miss schooling. Since implementation, the water point curbed a lot of challenges we used to undergo, helping us concentrate on education."

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 Mukhuyu Community 5 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 Mukhuyu Community 5 – 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.


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