Published in August 2017

In the first of a series of blogs, our Chairman, David Jordan OBE, explains the work Sand Dams Worldwide is doing to help people living in some of the world’s driest places.

We live in a technological age. I for one find it hard to keep up with the new gizmos and apps that are designed to make our lives easier. But sometimes it’s the old, even ancient, ways of doing things that can change people’s lives for the better. Sand dams is an ancient technology that really works. The concept is simple. 

Its just 3 steps:

  • Location is critical. We work with communities in some of the driest regions of the world to find a riverbed that holds water after it rains, but where the water quite simply flows away when the rain stops.
  • Working alongside the local people, we build a reinforced concrete wall across the river bed.
  • We then let nature take its course. After one, or perhaps a few rainy seasons, sand collects behind the dam and traps water within it.

Local people can then, quite literally, tap into the water held within the sand.

"No sand dam is ever built without the local community leading from the front (we just support them)."

Of course, nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems and sand dams are no exception. Behind every sand dam is an enormous amount of hidden effort by Sand Dams Worldwide and its local partners. Fundraising is a vital first step.  Each sand dam costs between £15-35k (depending on its size) providing a safe and secure supply of water for up to 1,200 people.

And no sand dam is ever built without the local community leading from the front (we just support them). Local partners provide the vital technical support and advice on the location, design and construction, and the self-help groups build the dam that spans the riverbed. 

Increasingly we are learning to combine ancient techniques with modern technology. We use modern satellite mapping technology to scope potential sites for new dams, as well as record the location of existing dams. We also use social media to share and spread the word about the impact of sand dams and the benefits they bring to people living in some of the driest places in the world. Next, we will be launching a new sand dam manual that will available to download for free.

So, modern technology and the ancient art of sand dams are together helping to bring clean and secure water to thousands of people. It’s a great combination.

This short animation shows how these three easy steps give people a reliable source of water for drinking and for growing food: