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WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
DRINKING WATER TESTING
DRINKING WATER - EMERGENCY PURIFICATION
PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES
WATER CONTAMINANT LEVELS
WATER FILTERS, HOME USE
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WELL CHLORINATION & DISINFECTION
WELL FLOW RATE
WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS
WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Cistern construction recommendations: this article describes the construction requirements for a site-built water storage system and includes details for diverting rooftop rainwater drainage into the cistern fdor water storage. We also describe a simple graywater re-use system installed at the same building site.
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In a sequence of photographs here we describe a rooftop rainwater collection system that sends clean roof runoff into a very large masonry cistern built below a home in Guanajuato, Mexico. The building owners and system designers LM and DP live atop a mountain where water is scarce and expensive to have delivered.
At below left we see a large low slope rooftop area that collects rainwater during the rainy season. Skylights, a rooftop access hatch, and a solar water heating system are also installed on this roof.
A masonry border or low parapet wall around the rooftop is penetrated at several drain locations to direct rainwater into pipes that in turn carry water to the basement cistern.
Screening (above right) keep eucaluptus leaves and other rooftop debris out of the piping. At initial rainfall water can be diverted away from the cistern so that water containing dust and bird droppings can be flushed from the roof and system before subsequent rainfall is diverted into the cistern itself.
Roof drainage is piped to a steel drum whose interior was cleaned and painted and filled with large rocks to absorb the shock of a heavy water flow into the system (below left). The catch-drum outlet then directs water through the building's wall and into the rainwater storage cistern. The designers placed the drum outlet above its bottom to permit settlement of dust and debris that can be periodically removed.
A pump located in the cistern delivers water up to the building's various plumbing fixtures. At point of use in the kitchen where safe water potability must be assured, the owners installed a water purification system including a reverse osmosis treatment and a cascade of water filters (above right).
This thoughtful rainwater catchment system in active use in a dry climate includes several interesting design features including the ability to have rain provide a rooftop dust flush before rainwater is diverted into the cistern and an extensive grayater collection system (orange arrows shown on the gray barrell at below left) that in parallel to the cistern conserves graywater for application to gardens and trees on the site.
A simple ball valve connected to the graywater container permits connection of a hose to direct graywater to where it is to be applied on nearby garden or trees.
More about graywater re-use systems is at GREYWATER SYSTEMS
For another very simple rainwater collection system see the rainwater collection and storage tank we show in our article at PASSIVE SOLAR HOME, LOW COST) also designed for collecting as much rainwater as possible when rainy weather occurs.
Reader Question: advice on building a traditional cistern
6/24/2014 Robert said:
I have questions regarding very much older durable cisterns. First, my Grandfather's was partially below and partially above ground and it was round, maybe 8 ft across diameter. It collected water off his galvanized tin roof and gutters that passed through some very fine screens into the cistern. I seem to recall that the liner for lack of a better word was use of something like the white very flat rectangular brick sort of like Fire Brick and probably concrete mortar but that is as much as I can recall. It was used for drinking water and just about everything. He just used a small galvanized bucket to drop and pull up the water.
The question is are there old designs of this type to be found somewhere. All I know is it worked fine and I loved the water out of it. This did not hit the ground so there was no, at that time, concern for harmful bacteria. I suspect our air was much cleaner then too. Anyway, I really want to try to find out how his may have likely been built because I would like to try building one primarily for drinking use or cooking. I also plan to have no trees near the house so no big problem with leaves. I do not recall any trees anywhere in the vicinity of his gutters or the cistern; they were all away from the house. Can you help me with some information?
Reply: Cistern Specifications & Design Tips
As we corresponded by email, cisterns are still used all over the world for water storage; in addition to keeping out debris, you may need to test (or sanitize) the water before using it for drinking.
Cisterns tend to be site-built of masonry, often open-topped or concrete-topped and may be above-ground or below ground.
Since traditional cistern construction is basically a masonry box lined with high-portland cement to improve its water tight properties, we don't find many plans or design specifications. But I can list a few features you'll want to consider besides building the cistern box itself:
Photo at left: water delivery to a stone cistern located in the floor of a restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.
I extend the "cistern" concept to include large plastic water tanks that are usually located above ground and sometimes on building roofs.
To consider the plastic tank alternative, see ROOFTOP WATER TANKS
More about using plastic tanks for water storage incuding possible health concerns associated with storing water in some types of plastic is at PLASTIC CONTAINERS, TANKS, TYPES
Cistern Construction, Sanitation, History & Water Storage System Research Citations
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