Harvesting Water

Part of the Climate Change exhibition.

The Issue: Drought

Today's dry seasons pose hard times for farmers in Africa as their crops and livestock suffer. Will climate change make the dry seasons longer?

The Strategy: Sand Dams

Rural livestock farmers have difficulty finding water during dry seasons in Kenya. Sand dams are a low-tech method of storing rainwater for drier days. They are based on sand bars that form naturally and may locally dam water in riverbeds during times of heavy rains.

Kenyans have long known about these hidden "wells," where clean water collects. But there's usually not enough water to sustain them or their livestock for long. Relief groups help organize and fund the construction of sand dams large enough to hold water for an entire community.

In many places, sand dam technology has evolved from traditional dams that mimic riverbeds to dams that block seasonal water flow to create reservoirs. The deep water behind the dam is used for drinking, but it also seeps into the ground, allowing trees and crops to grow along the river banks--even during the dry season.