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Sand dams represent a simple, low cost and low maintenance method for water conservation, especially suitable for semi-arid regions.

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Sand dams represent a simple, low cost and low maintenance method for water conservation, especially suitable for semi-arid regions. They can retain rainwater and recharge groundwater. A sand dam is essentially a wall, which is built in stages across and into a seasonal sandy riverbed. It is most commonly made out of steel reinforced concrete, rubble stone masonry or earth. Its life span can be up to 50 years. By implementing sand dams, local communities are provided with a clean and reliable source of water, even during periods of drought.

Seasonal rivers form during rainy seasons and carry soil downstream. This soil is mostly made up of sand, the heavier part, and silt, which is lighter. The heavy sand accumulates behind the sand dam, while the lighter silt washes downstream over the dam. Up to 40 % of the retained volume is actually water, which is stored between sand particles. The dam usually fills completely within one to four rainy seasons.

Sand dams are most common in Kenya, but actually they have a significantly broader geographical range of application than has yet been explored. Examples of sand dam structures exist also in Brazil, Ethiopia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and India.

Learn more about sand dams in the elements below.

For more on rainwater harvesting, please check out our Toolbox elements rainwater harvesting and land-based rainwater harvesting. Aquifer recharge provides you with knowledge on how depleted groundwater sources (aquifers) can be restored. Additionally in the Toolbox, you can also learn about another type of dam structures, check dams, which serve to reduce erosion, by lowering water speed and accumulating sediments during floods. More to come in the following weeks…

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about rural development, please take a further look at our website. Please keep in mind that new materials are available weekly.

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Sand Dams Literature Review Elements of Sand Dams Sand Dams Design and Construction Sand Dams Quiz Sand Dams Summary


The Toolbox contains knowledge and methods to revive the land, use synergies and develop degraded rural settings. Each entity in the Toolbox consists of a video and a short summary introducing the topic, a literature review for a more in depth insight into the topic, as well as a quiz to test your knowledge on the subject.

These publications are a result of collaboration with Master students, PhD students and researchers at the Institute of Wastewater Management and Water Protection at Hamburg University of Technology. They are concerned with restoring degraded areas and creating new, not just inhabitable, but liveable spaces. All RUVIVAL publications are available in the readings section for free as a download as we support open access and source.

Furthermore, each toolbox contains a variety of other tools like calculators, manuals, handbooks or a database according to the topic.

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RUVIVAL produces e-learning material concerned with sustainable rural development. The project exists since 2016 as part of the Hamburg Open Online University (HOOU). The RUVIVAL Team produces the material at the Institute of Wastewater Management and Water Protection (AWW) as part of the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH).

The aim is to spread knowledge on sustainable practices. This e-learning website gives you the tools to implement sustainable practices in the area of sanitation, water and soil conservation.

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Veröffentlicht am

November 07, 2019





Samuel Duval

Berenice Lopez Mendez

Lukas Schreiner

Isidora Vrbavac

LRMI Metadaten