Project Status

Project Type:  Protected Spring

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 210 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Mar 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/02/2024

Project Features

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The Shitirira area is highly vegetated with trees and farm crops. The setting is rural and peaceful. Most of the houses here are semi-permanent with iron sheet roofs. Community members keep livestock and grow crops such as maize, sugarcane, maize, and beans. Some people are involved in trade and small retail businesses for their livelihoods.

210 people in Shitirira depend on Shisambula Spring for water as their closest and only year-round water source. The unprotected spring is not seasonal and it has served the village for many decades without going dry. But the spring is open to all sorts of contamination, compromising its ability to serve the community well.

Shisambula Spring looks like a two-tier puddle; water collects in a small pool in the upper tier, and mainly flows through an opening through a mud and stone wall the community built. This water then flows into the lower puddle, which is mostly standing water due to a lack of a drainage system.

Using the opening in the mud wall, the community has improvised flowing water without a discharge pipe. But the open spring is constantly being contaminated by surface runoff from the rains. These deposit farm chemicals, residues from animal waste, and soil directly into the water.

During the rainy season, the runoff carries so much soil into the water that community members have to wait for it to settle before fetching water again. Algae, rotting leaves, and insects are constant companions in the water as well. The earthen wall the water passes through before community members collect it further puts the safety of the water at risk.

"The water is not safe for consumption because the spring is open to contamination," said primary school-aged student Rose.

Most community members said they have used a lot of money on medication for their waterborne illnesses, which depletes their families' financial resources. Some families cannot afford the medicine or hospital visits, risking their lives in the process.

"My wife had diarrhea and when she went to seek medication, she was told that she had taken dirty water. The medication cost was too high," recalled 38-year-old John Shisambula, the spring's namesake and landowner.

Time and energy lost to water-related illnesses mean less productive time for adults, and often less income as a result. Children have to stay home from school when they get sick after drinking the spring water, often causing them to fall behind in their studies.

Accessibility is the other major concern at the spring. To reach the mud wall where the water comes through, community members must stand in several inches of water and mud while they fill their container. This is not just uncomfortable, but risky for their health. Snakes, dangerous insects, and mosquitoes that carry malaria all prefer the standing water around the spring, putting people at risk of further illness or injury every time they fetch water.

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.


Project Updates

June, 2021: Shisambula Spring Project Complete!

Shitirira Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Shisambula Spring into a flowing source of water, thanks to your donation. Our team protected the spring and trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices, including COVID-19 prevention.

Protected Shisambula Spring

" I am sure of clean and safe water now. There will be no wastage of time at the protected spring again. I am a farmer, so I will use the water for irrigation when it is the dry season," said Priscah Lucheveleli, a young businessperson in the community.

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

"It's now easy to access water because it was a big issue, especially during the rainy seasons. At least now I'll be clean. I will not waste time queueing at the spring. I will be doing my homework on time, which will help me pass my exams," said primary school student Nancy.

Preparing for Spring Protection

Community members worked together to source and carried 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 the gravel. Because people have to carry most items by hand, the materials collection process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.

The village elder helps carry construction materials to the spring site.

When the community prepared everything, 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. 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.

Community members help excavate the spring and prepare the foundation.

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 the construction work.

Laying 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.


Next, we began one of the most crucial spring protection steps to ensure a fully functional water point: setting the discharge pipe. The discharge pipe has 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 pipe and the spring floor. This allows room for the average jerrycan (a 20-liter container) to sit beneath the pipe without making contact.

Setting the pipe

If we placed the discharge pipe 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 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.

Stairs construction

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 discourage people and animals from standing on that area, which could cause soil erosion and thus a clogged drainage area.

Stone pitching

We turned to cementing and plastering both sides of the headwall and wing walls with brickwork and stone pitching completed. 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.


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 beautifying the spring and facilitating easy cleaning of the spring floor.


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 pipe only.

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.

Fence and transplanted grass

Community members transplanted grass onto the backfilled soil to help prevent erosion. Finally, the collection area was fenced 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.

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. We officially handed over the spring directly following training to mark the community's ownership of the water point. With the community members gathered at the spring, the spring's landowner offered appreciation for the new water point before people started using it. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day flowing in all directions.

Women celebrate with a cheers to clean water.

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

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

Together with the village elder Mr. John Shisambula, we found the community's preferred date for training while considering other community calendar events, such as the agricultural season and social events. We requested a representative group of community members to attend training to relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.

Trainer Mary talks masks and hand sanitizer at training.

When the day arrived, facilitators Mary Afandi and Samuel Simidi deployed to the site to lead the event. Ten people attended the training, including community-based leaders. We held the training outside at the spring construction site and in a field near a Pentecostal Assemblies God Church within the community. The two settings allowed for physical distancing, easy access to the spring, and plenty of grass and shade for sitting.

Perhaps the most crucial topic of the day was our session on COVID-19 prevention and control. 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 virus and provide extra information where needed.

Handwashing demonstration

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; 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.

Trainer Sam explains how solar disinfection works with the clear water bottle as a teaching tool.

We also brainstormed income-generating activities that they can use to start a community savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop small businesses.

"I thank God for your team for the knowledge they have given unto me. I will live longer because I am taking clean and safe water now," said Chair of the water user committee, 70-year-old Shisambula Makachelelwa.

"The facilitators have taught me how to handle water after drawing it from the protected spring. I will maintain this cleanliness daily and pass the information I have got to my grandchildren also," said Mary Shisambula. She added that the most helpful part of the COVID-19 sensitization training was learning  "how to make masks for our family members using locally available resources."

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 to assist them. Also, 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!

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: "Worry Does Not Engulf Me Anymore."

June, 2022

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

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Shitirira Community 2.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Shitirira Community 2 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!

"The exercise of getting water from this spring [was] tedious, and the water itself was contaminated. The animals used to share with us the water since it was open," said Peter S., 14, when describing Shisambula Spring before protecting it last year.

Since we protected the water source for Shitirira community, Peter and his fellow community members find they can now easily collect safe, clean water.

"Our water is now safe and easy to access and draw," said Peter. "I no longer share it with wild and domestic animals that used to cause more contamination. The worry of contracting water-related disease does not engulf me anymore."

Now that Peter has more access to the water, he has also found time to do other essential things. He said, "I get enough time to play [with] my friends since water fetching has been made easier. I am also able to help with other chores at home."

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 Shitirira Community 2 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 Shitirira Community 2 – 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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