Project Status

Project Type:  Protected Spring

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 203 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Sep 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 06/14/2024

Project Features

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The community of Elwakana is characterized by underdevelopment. The 203 people who live here are marginalized, with no access to proper infrastructure, including clean water.

Their primary water source, Atitwa Spring, provides enough water to serve the people who live here, but it is difficult to see that in its current overgrown and unprotected state. It is not easy to access and only provides water that is unsafe for people to consume.

The community members have received promises in the past from others that their spring would be protected, but no one followed through. Until now, they have had no other choice but to continue collecting and drinking the water that is making them ill.

People do their best to get to the water point as early in the day as possible so they can collect water before dirt and sediment are stirred up. They mistakenly believe that if the water is less muddy and cloudy, then it must be safer to drink, but looks can be deceiving.

"People using this water point when they are experiencing stomachache and frequent cases of typhoid have never associated it with water until the community health volunteer came along and tried educating them on the dangers of using such water without doing anything to [protect] it," said our field officer Protus Ekesa.

There is a decrepit, rusty chlorine dispenser near the spring, but people do not use it. It will be replaced when we protect the spring, and the community will be trained on the importance of treating the water to help prevent water-related illnesses.

"[The] water is always dirty in the afternoon, therefore, [I] am always waking up very early to fetch water to get water to put in the pot for drinking," said 12-year-old Oliver A. (in the photo above).

The spring is overgrown with grass, and people fear collecting water from the spring since the area surrounding it is the perfect hiding place for dangerous animals and snakes.

"Men are in town, and this place is always bushy, [so] we are scared sometimes to come [to] fetch water in the day," said 52-year-old farmer Emily Waswa (seen below carrying water). Emily needs water for both her family and her livestock, so she has no choice but to take the risk.

By protecting the spring, it will be possible for community members like Oliver and Emily to safely and quickly collect water any time of the day with the assurance that it is safe to consume.

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 training, we work closely with both community leaders and the local government. 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.

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

September, 2023: Elwakana Community Spring Protection Complete!

Elwakana Community now has access to clean water! Thanks to your donation, we transformed their spring into a flowing source of naturally filtered water. We also installed a chlorine dispenser to provide added protection and trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices. Together, these components will unlock the opportunity for community members to live better, healthier lives.

"Having access to reliable water will significantly improve our health and hygiene. We can now easily practice proper handwashing, which is crucial for preventing the spread of diseases. We can also maintain better personal hygiene, especially when it comes to cooking, cleaning, and sanitation, [and I] am saying this as a mother. Sometimes I used to fear for the health of my ten and 12-year-old [children] because of the water we used to drink," said 35-year-old farmer Christine Atinga.

Christine collecting water.

Christine continued, "The availability of clean water opens up possibilities for various income-generating activities ideas I had. Some community members have small businesses, such as hotel food kiosks at the market near the primary school. I can supply them with clean water at a fee to use for cooking and offering their customers after meals."

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

"Things have become easier. I have a medical condition on my leg. Going to get water was so much [more] difficult [for me]. Sometimes, when it became difficult, I had to stay thirsty [and] wait until one of my family members was back from the farm, but now I can even go and get water during the night," said 13-year-old Oliver W.

Oliver at the spring.

"I know drinking clean water improves health. I will drink as much water as possible and be healthy," concluded Oliver.

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 rocks to break them into gravel. Because people have to carry most items by hand, the material-collection process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.

Community members collecting grass to transplant.

When the community was ready, we sent a truck to deliver the remaining construction materials, including cement, plastic tarps, and hardware. Then, our construction 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

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

To ensure community members could still access water throughout the construction process, we also dug temporary channels around the construction site from the spring's eye. This allowed water to flow without disrupting community members' tasks or the construction work. Excavation created space for setting the spring's foundation, made of thick plastic, wire mesh, concrete, and waterproof cement.

After establishing the base, we started brickwork to build the headwall, wing walls, and stairs. Once the walls had grown tall enough, we began one of the most crucial steps: setting the discharge pipe. The discharge pipe needs to be positioned low enough in the headwall so the water level never rises above the spring's eye, yet high enough to allow room for the average jerrycan (a 20-liter container) to sit beneath the pipe without making contact, which prevents cross-contamination.

Beginning brickwork.

If we place the discharge pipe too high above the spring's eye, back pressure could force water 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 an incline to ensure water flows in the right direction.

In coordination with brickwork, we pitched stones on both sides of the spring's drainage channel. We then cemented and plastered each stone, forming the rub walls. These walls discourage people and animals from standing in that area, which could cause soil erosion and a clogged drainage area.

We then cemented and plastered 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.


As the headwall and wing walls cured, 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.

The final stage of construction is backfilling the reservoir box behind the discharge pipe. We cleared the collection box of any debris that may have fallen during construction. Then, we redirected the temporary diversion channels back into the reservoir box, channeling water into this area for the first time. We close all other exits to force water through only the discharge pipe.

We filled the reservoir area with the large, clean stones community members had gathered, arranging them in layers like a well-fitting puzzle. We covered the rocks with thick plastic to minimize potential contamination sources, then piled enough dirt on top to compensate for future settling.

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

The construction process took about two weeks of work and patience to allow the cement and plaster to finish curing. As soon as the spring was ready, people got the okay from their local field officers to fetch water.

We officially handed over the spring to mark the community's ownership of the water point. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day, flowing in all directions.

The dedication of the new water point was an important event to mark its significance and to involve the community in celebrating the milestone. Furthermore, the dedication served as a platform to emphasize the importance of responsible water usage, hygiene practices, and the community's role in the long-term sustainability of the water point.

Training on Health, Hygiene, and More

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 representative group of community members to attend training and relay the information learned to the rest of their families and friends.

When the day arrived, facilitators David, Joyce, Protus, Faith, Joy, Mercy, and four interns deployed to the site to lead the event. 14 people attended the training, including 9 women and 6 men. We held the training outside at one of the community member's homesteads.

We covered several topics, including community participation in the project; leadership and governance; personal, dental, and environmental hygiene; water handling and treatment; spring maintenance; the importance of primary health care and disease prevention; family planning; soapmaking; how to make and use handwashing stations; and the ten steps of handwashing.

During the leadership and governance session, we held an election for the newly formed water user committee leaders, who will oversee the maintenance of the spring. We also brainstormed income-generating activities. Community members can now start a group savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group, enabling them to develop small businesses.

"The topic of water and sanitation [was] memorable. The training program focused on educating participants about the significance of clean water, the importance of proper water storage and treatment, and the potential health risks associated with [using]  contaminated water sources. During the session, it was noted [the] majority of the community members are usually attacked by waterborne diseases, especially during the rainy season," shared field officer David Muthama.

Isabella taking water home from the spring.

"This training has sparked a sense of responsibility and motivation within me. Having been picked as the organizing secretary, I feel a deep commitment to actively contribute to the protection of the spring and the overall well-being of our community. I now understand the importance of being a role model and leading by example. I have also observed how you work as a team, and I have borrowed a lot in teamwork," shared 40-year-old farmer Isabella Auma.


This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members. When an issue arises concerning the spring, the water user committee is equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water point works appropriately and there is guaranteed public access in the future. 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!

July, 2023: Elwakana Community Spring Protection Underway!

The lack of adequate water in Elwakana 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

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!


Project Sponsor - Concord-Carlisle Catholic Collaborative