water cisterns

Wed Aug 09, 2006 10:40 am

hey guys,
i have finished most of my work on my cub and m, they are running great, and now i am diverting more attention to fixing my house and barn. this past weekend after replacing my front door, i really know now with certainty that i am not a carpenter!! :oops: well anyways, i have two water cisterns by my house that collect water from my gutters. i have city water and do not need them. has anyone here used their old cisterns for watering gardens? animals? or use them for anything else? how does a person clean them out?
thanks
john

Wed Aug 09, 2006 11:12 am

John: For the first ten years of my life, our only source of household water was a cistern. Gutters along the dripline of the roof collected and transported water to the cistern. The water should be suitable for plant and animal use. It was a common source of water for human consumption at many of the farms in Missouri at that time but could not meet safety standards today. The water level in the cistern would become very low during late summer. A person was lowered into the cistern and would remove dirt and debris which had collected during the past year. One look at what was brought up, including skeletons of mice or other small rodents, would have you searching for an alternate source for human consumption. I suspect many people contracted water borne diseases from using the cistern water. Dan

Wed Aug 09, 2006 4:22 pm

My thoughts. Cisterns could be a liability. My neighbor has a cistern covered with a partial sheet of plywood held down with a cement block.

My current residence had a cistern when the wife and I purchased the property. I filled in the cistern to about 6 inches below ground level. Removed the cistern top/lip down to the fill. Then formed up and poured a 6" concrete, reinforced slab.

Agree with Dan on cleaning a cistern. On a hot day you want to be the guy operating the shovel in the bottom of the cistern, not the one on top hauling up buckets of trash.

Eugene

Wed Aug 09, 2006 4:54 pm

Eugene makes a good point on the liability issue. I have been involved in a bat research project for 10-12 years. We don't have caves in our area so this species of bat inhabits cistern-like structures during the colder part of the winter. This habitat is being lost as individuals or companies purchase tracts of land. We have made arrangements to install locking covers on some prime habitat. Otherwise, the new owners fill them to avoid liability as open cistern-wells can be a death-trap for children or small farm animals. If you retain the cisterns, and you may wish to, secure the opening with a cover which can't be easily removed. Dan

Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:02 pm

My folks have a cistern, around here you are supposed to have a good sealed lid (heavy enough a child cant lift it) and a building (like a pump house).
When the folks added onto the house they just built right over the cistern, and made a trap door in the mud room.

We clean it out every summer, just use the water down to where its about 3 feet deep, then crank up the portable sump pump, one guy stirs the sediment and the other guy runs the pump, when we get all the water and most of the sediment out we then shovel into 5 gallon buckets and someone pulls them up with a rope.
This cistern holds 10,000 gallons, the folks keep a nice shiny clean aluminum extension ladder in the attic just for cleaning the cistern.

Some of the farms have 2 cisterns and most generally one of em catches the rain for the animals and the other is for the house (just spring water), most of these places originally had hand dug wells and had to have the water storage.
John

P.S. we used to find gophers and other rodents, in the cistern, but I will never forget the sheep carcass we found in the spring :shock:

Wed Aug 09, 2006 6:00 pm

Years ago they used to use them for firefighting. The (engine) fire truck would pull up as close to the cistern to put their hard suction hose down below the water to fight the fire. Sometimes the cistern was to close to the structure to do any good. If you have one an its far enough from the structure you might want to check with your insurance company to see if you get any break on your home owners insurance. That will go for anyone.
Jeff

Wed Aug 09, 2006 8:35 pm

thankls guys,
one of my cisterns has a pump in it, and the other is always full. uhg! i never thought of little critters getting into the water..... :shock: i think i will keep them for the time being, i have decent lids on them. i have been mulling over having a garden next year so the extra water will be good.
john

Wed Aug 09, 2006 8:39 pm

along a little different line of thought. The house that I currently live in is a 1950s cape, and one quarter of the basement was originally a cistern. The previous owner cut out one of the inside walls, opening that area up into the basement, and now I have turned it into a family room. Turns out that it is the most DRY part of my basement. The walls must have originally been coated with something, or maybe they were reinforced better or poured thicker. All I know is that every other corner of my basement leaks, and the part that was the cistern is dry as a bone.

Wed Aug 09, 2006 9:00 pm

gitractorman wrote:along a little different line of thought. The house that I currently live in is a 1950s cape, and one quarter of the basement was originally a cistern. The previous owner cut out one of the inside walls, opening that area up into the basement, and now I have turned it into a family room. Turns out that it is the most DRY part of my basement. The walls must have originally been coated with something, or maybe they were reinforced better or poured thicker. All I know is that every other corner of my basement leaks, and the part that was the cistern is dry as a bone.


My son recently purchased a house with an addition build over the cistern. The cistern is 8' wide, 16' long, and about 12' deep. A previous owner cut a door way into the cistern from the basement wall. The bottom of the cistern is about 4 feet below the basement floor. The cistern is dry.

We are looking for ideas on what to do with the cistern. One hugh wine celler is out of the question. It's a little small for a racketball court. Don't need the storage space. Filling it up would cost a fortune.

Eugene

Thu Aug 10, 2006 8:41 am

a wine cellar is a good idea!!! :lol: :!:

Thu Aug 10, 2006 9:01 am

In south Pacific island groups such as Samoa, rainwater catchment cisterns are sometimes the only source of water. One problem there is that the catchment tanks become infested with mosquito larvae. Imagine looking down into your glass of water and seeing little swimming things! :o :shock: That's primarily a problem of keeping the cistern well sealed. But you can purify catchment water for home use--kill the microbes, at least--by adding chlorine, the way municipal systems do. The trick is knowing how much chlorine to add for the volume of water. I never dared to try it when I was in Samoa for fear of poisoning "my" family, but now you can get this info on the web. There are also places in Hawaii (Kona side of the Big Island, for example, where houses are built on old lava fields), where rainwater catchment tanks are the only water source. A friend of mine told me that you should only use the water collected from metal roofs, however, not the runoff from corrugated fiberglass.

Here on the Mainland, untreated cistern water is useful if considered "gray water," for watering the garden, washing cars, almost anything but drinking.

Trivia facts you probably didn't need to know, but anyway....
Jocelyn

Thu Aug 10, 2006 7:05 pm

Eugene wrote:
My son recently purchased a house with an addition build over the cistern. The cistern is 8' wide, 16' long, and about 12' deep. A previous owner cut a door way into the cistern from the basement wall. The bottom of the cistern is about 4 feet below the basement floor. The cistern is dry.

We are looking for ideas on what to do with the cistern.

Eugene


Eugene,
Sounds like an ideal storm shelter to me. Of course, that idea is coming from someone who lives in a Kansas town that has had some serious tornado damage twice in the last 32 years. :)

Ike

Bleach

Sat Aug 12, 2006 5:24 pm

Our farm cistern is not used for drinking or cooking water. We regulary treat it with a dose of laundry bleach (contains chlorine) and test it with a pool Cl test kit. Takes a while to stabilize the Cl level even when recirculating water into it. It does keep the water fresh smelling as compared to the "froggy smell" it gets from not being used enough.

Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:48 pm

I have two wells on my property one for the house and one for the barn. I also have a cistern up at the house that is tied into our water lines. To switch from well to cistern you just flip the breakers to change pumps. We always use the well water to shower and drink although Im sure some people wouldnt drink well water. We let the cistern fill up from the gutters and use it to wash the cars and water the plants. I also pour a little bleach in it once in a while to "freshen it up". While we dont really need the cistern, its there and not hurting anything and I like the idea that while it hasn't happened yet, in the event of a drought and our well running dry I could have water hauled and easily dumped in the cistern to get us by...

Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:14 am

Talk to your county office on clean out ,we cleaned ours with a bleach and water mix, be careful not to get to much bleach as you will get overcome with the vapors, we had a cistern and well at our old house we hauled water for years , where I grew up we had our downspouts run to the cistern for main water supply , We made it out fine ,as someone posted those who grew up between 1930 -1970.
We had a storm in 1969 where we had dead sparrows frogs and mosquito larva in we had to complely drain and scrub out , so make sure you have a tight lid on it.
Phil