Published in April 2018

As we recognise World Malaria Day (April 25), Excellent's Chairman, David Jordan, reflects on the role sand dams and Excellent are playing in improving both water supply, and water quality...

In our busy lives it’s easy to take things for granted. For many of us when we turn on the tap we can count on a ready supply of clean water. That’s not the case for everyone. For far too many, drinking water is dirty and carries the risk of making you ill.

The statistics on the impact of drinking unclean water are really shocking. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 3.4 million people die from water-related illnesses every year with children being most vulnerable. Lakes and streams can become contaminated when basic human sanitation facilities are lacking. Without water for washing, disease can be transferred from one person to another. Areas of stagnant water can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry diseases such as malaria, which is still responsible for the deaths of over one million people each year, mostly children under the age of five.

"The unique thing about a sand dam is that the water collected behind the dam is filtered through the sand and stored below the surface... it comes out clean, protecting those who drink it from disease."

At Excellent Development we are improving our understanding of the role of sand dams in improving both water supply and water quality. The unique thing about a sand dam is that the water collected behind the dam is filtered through the sand and stored below the surface. So there are no pools of stagnant water that can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes or become contaminated with harmful bacteria. Instead, when the water is taken out through a pipe, it comes out clean, protecting those who drink it from disease.

We need to know more about the part that sand dams can play in improving human health. Our our strategy commits us to gather more evidence about the effectiveness of sand dams in improving health. Recent research by Cranfield University (supported by Excellent) has demonstrated that water through sand dam pipes meet World Health Organisation standards.

Better evidence on the impact of health will strengthen our hand when we make the case for more investment in sand dams but early findings are promising. It really does seem likely that sand dams have an added health dividend.