We often talk about how incredibly sustainable sand dams are, but some of the benefits of sand dams are more obvious than others. While sand dams provide a sustainable source of clean water for communities over generations, they also have a hugely positive impact on the environment and biodiversity. Here is what makes sand dams so special:

Saved time creates opportunities

Sand dams save time by providing a year-round source of clean water close to people’s homes. Communities with sand dams report that they save up to 8 hours a day. This means that time once spent collecting water from distant sources can now be invested in education and farming. As a result, children have to time to go to school and parents can improve their farming techniques, grow more food, and generate an income from the surplus, improving everyone prospects for the future.

Low cost and little maintenance

Sand dams are cheap to build and maintain, and are therefore well suited to poor rural communities. As communities build their own sand dam, they understand the technology and know how to look after it in the future. Once they’ve been built, sand dams can provide a reliable source of water for over 100 years.

Increased food production

Combining sand dams with climate-sensitive agriculture techniques allows farmers to grow a surplus of food, even in times of drought. Terracing land near sand dams for example, increases crop yields, and farmers have reported that they are successfully growing tomatoes, mangoes and bananas, which they were previously unable to do. This enables people to flourish even in the uncertain future of climate change.

Aquifer recharge

As the water in sand dams spreads horizontally, it recharges the aquifer, allowing vegetation to grow and reversing the desertification process in the long-term. This increases biodiversity and transforms decertified landscapes into fertile land.

"Last week my own child was sent home from school to collect fees. Because I have tomatoes that I have planted, I was able to have some income, the child went back to school. That would not happen before. Also the children that will be growing up will have a good balanced diet. They are having vegetables, they are having a variety of food crops because of the use of the water and that will enable them to have good body, good health as they grow up."

Regina Makao, Malaika self-help group, Kenya.

Mitigating climate change

By enabling the growth of trees and other vegetation and reversing the desertification process, sand dams help to reduce carbon emissions.


Community ownership is a key success factor in sand dam projects. Involving the local communities from the start ensures that the chosen technology is right for them, they understand it and know how to use and look after it – crucial for the sustainability of any development project. 

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