underground cistern

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Hi all. I live in a drought area and my (Victorian) house has a large underground cistern for collecting rainwater. It is empty and has not been used for many years (I suppose since mains water was installed) and I'm wondering whether I could use it again by diverting drainpipes or just the overflow from water butts. Does anyone know anything about this sort of thing? I wouldn't like to make the ground soggy and have the house tip into it. Am I being alarmist. Any advice appreciated. Thanks
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I'd go to the farm and garden stores around you. Look for the old guy with the grey hair, and ask if he's got experience with this kind of thing. I'm thinking that's a good idea, to divert your drain spouts through the cistern.
Might be some information on the web. How to keep the water from getting moldy, and so on. Keeping algae away. A Clorox a day keeps the algae away?
Christopher A. Young Learn more about Jesus www.lds.org .
Hi all. I live in a drought area and my (Victorian) house has a large underground cistern for collecting rainwater. It is empty and has not been used for many years (I suppose since mains water was installed) and I'm wondering whether I could use it again by diverting drainpipes or just the overflow from water butts. Does anyone know anything about this sort of thing? I wouldn't like to make the ground soggy and have the house tip into it. Am I being alarmist. Any advice appreciated. Thanks
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How large is it? When I think cistern I think about the concrete or stone lined ones that were close to a lot of houses or farm houses back in the 50's or 60's; and these were quite old and had become obsolete with water pluming. Most had a hand pump on top but the capacity was not huge - probably 500-1,000 gallons or so which put it in the capacity range of a septic tank. I don't think tipping the house would even be a concern with one of these; and yes it might be a great source for garden irrigation, etc.
I guess another concern would be proximity to the house, overflow diversion and presence of a basement.
RonB
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I have some limited exposure to this issue. My aunt in Kansas had one on their farm. It collected rain water, and there was pump, of course. They also had shallow well, wind mills, etc.
A friend also had a cabin on an island off of the Connecticut coast. It had a cistern. IIRC, there was an access hatch, and the idea was to paint it with whitewash periodically for sanitation reasons.
In both cases, the cistern was water tight. I would assume that if that was still the case, that it would be fine to use it. If you are just accumulating rain water, and it leaks, it is no worse than the water coming off the roof being absorbed in the ground.
DO keep us posted on the matter. I am sure that in remote areas that cisterns are still used, such as down on islands where there is little rain. I had a friend who was in the Peace Corps on Nevis island, and they used cisterns all the time there.
/paul W3FIS
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On Fri, 20 Apr 2012 06:44:04 -0700 (PDT), deadgoose

Since stormwater management fees are being charged by the local municipality, cisterns are making a comeback here in Waterloo Region as well. We have watering bans all summer. If you have a cistern and water with cistern water, you can still have a green lawn. And reduced "taxes"
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After my first post a thought came to me that I had forgotten One concern with cisterns is children. Make sure the top is secure because kids have drowned in them. Aannnnd......Some kids enjoy putting their siblings or cousins in dry cisterns. Experience reminds me that a concrete walled cistern is damned hard to get out of.
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On Fri, 20 Apr 2012 03:46:06 -0700 (PDT), Kelvin Kersey

If it's not too large, maybe you could fill it and then monitor the water level to see if any leaks out. If no leaks, I can't think of a reason not to use it as you suggest.
--
Work is the curse of the drinking class.

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The other issue would be what the water is then going to be used for which would determing in part what else is needed, eg pump.... If he's thinking of using it to water a lawn the cistern would need a capacity that's matched to the size of the lawn.
I don't think he has to worry about the house falling into it, unless it's really close to the house. But with no data given, who knows?
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Kelvin Kersey wrote:

The house where I grew up was built in 1880, had a cistern. No idea what filled it, presumably roof run off was diverted to it. Had a round iron cover, used to love lifting it off as huge and colorful slugs accumulated on the underside :)
There was a hand pump inside the house on the back porch. The only thing the cistern water was used for was rinsing one's hair after washing; the city water was very hard. It would be good for irrigation too.
The ground was never soggy, house never tilted.
--

dadiOH
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There's always water in the ground -- assuming that you get some rain on a regular basis -- so ending up with soft soggy ground that wet enough to make the foundation shift is unlikely. Water moves through the ground; it doesn't stay in one place unless you are in a low spot and have a layer of solid rock under the soil. If that's the case, your property, basement, etc. would probably flood and turn into a pond with every heavy rain.
But, test the cistern. Divert some rain water into it, then remove the inlet, check the water level and then see if the water level goes down over time. If the level stays fairly constant, you've got a nice source of lawn and garden water. Cisterns that I'm familiar with, and especially if they're lined with stones rather than concrete, will leak some.
Tomsic
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Those things were usually built quite well. Originally the rain gutters were sent into it. Do it again, then get a small pump for the garden hose to use it.
Water butts? HUH????????
On Fri, 20 Apr 2012 03:46:06 -0700 (PDT), Kelvin Kersey

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Many of the old southern plantations had underground cisterns, made of brick and lined with mortar and sealed. Other underground cisterns were similarly made.
Many wells, way back then, were not deep wells, so a well would often run dry, especially in the summer months, so collecting water for, mostly, utility was common place. The underground cistern was the collection pot, if one didn't have a wooden aboveground one, which was fairly common for many southern homes, also.
It was not uncommon for a cistern to spring a leak, so they had to be maintained, repaired and/or resealed every several years. When electricity came along, for pumps, many of these cisterns were abandoned, but many were abandoned when they began to leak too much, anyway. When the brick & mortar became too bad, dislodged, etc., folks just abandoned that cistern and built a new one. Many of the old abandoned cisterns were then used for garbage disposal. These old cisterns sites are a favorite place for bottle and other collectors to search for old bottles, sometimes tools, old shoes... the buckles are collector items, same with clothes buttons, and similar old relics.
There's an old wives tale that you plant a fig tree over an abandoned cistern... it'll grow very well and produce lots of figs. There is also speculative logic that this fig tree planting was more to prevent children from playing near the abandoned hole area, a possible dangerous scenario if it was to cave in. *Even today, children fall into abandoned holes, of some sort.
I would highy suspect your cistern will leak. You would need to inspect the cistern to find out just how bad it is and what needs to be done to repair it, if it can be reasonably repaired. Your best bet may be to install a septic tank into the hole and back fill any extra cistern space.
Sonny
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Seems that in the likely case that the cistern is leaking, a quick repair using modern materials would be something like an edpm pond liner or roofing material.
--
Often wrong, never in doubt.

Larry Wasserman - Baltimore Maryland - lwasserm(a)sdf. lonestar. org
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On Sat, 21 Apr 2012 07:39:30 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I have a cistern that's 15 feet deep, about 10 foot diameter. It's right near my well, and there were four steel pieces of iron sticking out of the ground, which was the base for the windmill that once stood there. The windmill was gone when I bought the farm and an electric submercible pump was in the well. I cut off those 4 steel pieces because I was always tripping on them. The well's pressure tank was in a barn while has collapsed. I had to dig up near the well, and re-route the pipes into the cistern, where I put my pressure tank, knowing it would not freeze down there. It works fine, but breaking thru the wall of that cistern was a huge job. It's all made of rocks mortared together and the interior was coated with concrete. The rock walls were at least 2 feet thick.
Anyhow, it's solid as can be, although some of that concrete coating has falled off on the inside, exposing the rock. There were a few cracks at the frost line, which I repaired with mortar, to which I added extra portland cement to make it real strong. My cistern is meant to stay dry these days. Even after heavy rain, it stays pretty dry, but there is a little leakage. I have a sump pump in the bottom to make sure it stays dry. The pressure tank is on top of a couple cinder blocks so it dont sit in any water, since sump pumps always leave an inch of water in the bottom. I have a few patio blocks down there to stand on, so I'm not standing in that inch of water when I do repairs.
My farm was built in the late 1800s, so that cistern is probably at least 100 years old. I did of course have to build a new cover for it. The original one was rotted. I built a new one with treated wood, and covered it with a piece of metal barn steel. It's made so it cant slide off or move, to prevent anyone (or animals) from falling in.
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On Apr 20, 10:30pm, snipped-for-privacy@toyotamail.com wrote:

Rain barrels.
-- Tom Horne
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On Friday, April 20, 2012 6:46:06 AM UTC-4, Kelvin Kersey wrote:

My father in law used to that he had 7000 gal cistern. I didnt think he would get enough water to make a difference but he could fill it in one afternoon rain. He collected water from about 4000 sq ft of roof surface(two buildings)At first he just used the water on his garden but once he found out how to treat it he used it for potable water too. The cistern should be sealed, my F I L used to build concrete swimming pools so he painted his with epoxy paint. You also need some drainage to protect from overfills. He piped his out to the garden. This started out to supplement his well but in the end was his main source of water for his home.
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On Fri, 20 Apr 2012 03:46:06 -0700, Kelvin Kersey wrote:

Possibly. I expect it's solid enough - a space filled with water shouldn't cuse any more problems than a space filled with air. Who knows what is decaying down there or if there are cracks in the walls through which stuff might leak - I'd say let it fill up, then get the water tested before using any of it (and possibly get it tested again periodically for a couple of years just to make sure nothing nasty's getting in there)
cheers
Jules
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My daughter put one in a couple months ago. 1500 gallon. She has a well but it wasn't supplying enough H2O. She had to get a permit (which you may not). Do you have a septic or city sewer? If you are just using it to water the lawn, you shouldn't have a problem. If you plan on drinking it and there is a septic system close, it may leach into it if either leaks, so be careful.
Like others have said, it may leak. You can get water delivered the first time pretty cheap and a lot easier than digging down and putting in piping to fill it off your roof. Fill it and see if it leaks before preceding any further. If it doesn't leak, then you can go to the expense of a pump, piping and etc.
Hank
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On 4/22/2012 9:00 AM, Hank wrote:

Does anyone remember the court case quite a few years back in Colorado where a woman set up rain barrels around her house and filled them from the rain and melted snow. She used the water on her garden, as I recall.
A local rancher who had water rights for all the water from the creek that flowed through the woman's property. He had her arrested for stealing his water. The judge agreed and made her dump all the water and never collect water again.
Perhaps only in Colorado, but could also be true in other states.
Paul
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I've heard of other cases very similar here in Colorado. Unfortunately, Colorado water rights are a serious matter, as Colorado is only one of two states where water only flows out of state. I live in a suburb of Denver, and the city has an ordinance that homeowners can not collect rain water.
Robin
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