Water Cisterns

mecoastie

Veteran Member
Thinking of installing a cistern between my sugar shack and the garden. I can get rainwater off both the shack and my shop. The plan would be to use it to water the garden. I know next to nothing about them but I am leaning towards concrete. Any thoughts or recommendations? Anyone share their experiences. Thanks
 

Jackpine Savage

Veteran Member
The farm that my Mom grew up on had an underground concrete cistern for their drinking water. The well water around there wasn't that good tasting. But I don't remember much for details.
 

Chicken Mama

Veteran Member
Sorry for the delay. Life and work got busy.
Our house was built in 1959, and like all homes around here had an underground cistern. Ours is now our storm shelter.

It was built out of cinder blocks under the then attached garage floor and was 20' wide, 26' long and 9' deep. Both front and back gutters tipped slightly (1.5" fall) toward one end of the house so rain would go into a downspout, then into an inverted Y shaped PVC pipe, ending inside the cistern about 1' from the top. That Y pipe had a little lever we'd push to divert the rainwater to an overflow pipe if the cistern was full. Rarely, I mean only in 3-4 very dry summers, did we ever need to have a load of water delivered.

In the floor of the garage was a manhole cover that we'd lift to pour in bleach before a good rain for disinfection. A pump was in the basement on the outside of the cistern wall at the bottom of the steps. We used this as our sole water source for 16 years and would prefer to have it back rather than our current county water. Our water heater was 19 years old before needing to be replaced because the rain water was chemical-free (for the most part) as compared to public water.

You can buy the heavy duty hard plastic tanks and either bury them or put them on top of the ground. You can also dig a large hole and build walls out of cinder block (not recommended) or frame walls and pour solid concrete walls. With time, cinder blocks leak and get shifted due to ground movement but it takes years.

If you tie it all into your house you'll need a backflow prevention device to assure the county/city water doesn't get contaminated. Depending on where you live and local rules, this has to be installed by a licensed plumber and be inspected by the county.

Not one did we have any off-taste or smell, not did anyone ever get the slightest bit I'll from drinking the rainwater. It tasted pure, our pipes and appliances were clean, the water was naturally soft, and was free.

Hope that was of some help.
 

Raggedyman

Res ipsa loquitur
we have a well for water but also have a 1700 gal plastic cistern that holds spring water buried on the mountain 70 feet above the house. its been in the ground since 2010 - never had a problem with it. the cistern is a gravity fed redundant back up - I can highly recomend the hard plastic.
 

RememberGoliad

Senior Member
Anybody have any experience with rock and mortar above-ground tanks? I've got rocks out the hee-hoo and have a place near the well uphill enough that I can get decent flow into the house for all but showerheads. Thinking 2000-2500 gal cistern filled with solar submersible pump and gravity to the house with an RV-type demand pressure pump for the shower. Also running through my mind is a smaller tank setting in the sun, elevated high enough to gravity into the shower.

I do intend to use the native rocks in construction, simply because it'd be flat-stupid to not use what is available and free, and what was used 100 years ago (with some still in use today in the area) to put water available when the power goes out.
 

mecoastie

Veteran Member
NOt sure where you are but would freezing and thawing be an issue pushng out the wall? see that up here with brick raised gardens. Water gets into the tiny cracks between the brick and mortar and freezes.
 

RememberGoliad

Senior Member
NOt sure where you are but would freezing and thawing be an issue pushng out the wall? see that up here with brick raised gardens. Water gets into the tiny cracks between the brick and mortar and freezes.

Texas hill country. All-time record low here is about 5*, and a "normal" cold snap will get us into the low 20's for a few hours. Very rare that this happens with cloud cover the preceding day, which I suppose means that the rocks' thermal mass keeps 'em from freezing. I've never seen more than 1/2" of ice form on a galvanized stock watering trough.

Definitely not cold enough to freeze the cistern solid. And if that happens, I have plenty of rocks with which to rebuild ;) And besides, if that happens I suspect the whole world will very-likely have much more to worry about than a busted cistern in Texas!

There are functioning cisterns and watering troughs built of concrete and rock but none recently since a Chinese tank from TSC or somewhere requires no time and to a grasshopper, there'll always be another one 40 miles down the road at the store. I want to build something that will last for my grandkids to supervise THEIR grandkids' maintenance of.
 

Chicken Mama

Veteran Member
Look into a water bladder so you can use the native rocks as walls, flooring. When ours started leaking, the cistern guy suggested that as an option. I don't think 2500 gallons is anywhere close to the size you'll need considering the amount of rain you don't get. Do a search on water haulers in your area to see what they charge to deliver a load. Here we got 2,500 gal for $40.
 
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