Question? Just ask us!
Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair
InspectAPedia ® Home
WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
WATER CONTAMINANT LEVELS
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER TANK REPAIR PROCEDURES
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WELL FLOW RATE
WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS
WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This article describes the use of cisterns as a drinking water supply source including rooftop cisterns, attic cisterns, ground-level and below-ground-level water storage cisterns. We also discuss the acceptability of cistern water supply for HUD financed properties.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
A cistern is basically a water reservoir of any kind which is used to accumulate and store water for future use. Cisterns are usually constructed close to the building which will use their water, sometimes even inside it.
Water from a cistern is typically pumped out by hand, drained by gravity, or it may be pumped by an electric pump such as a one line jet pump.
Interestingly the owner broke through into the cistern from the basement and drilled a modern steel casing well right in the bottom of the cistern - some of the new equipment is also visible.
Cisterns to store water for drinking or agricultural purposes are widely used in dry areas where rainwater runoff may be stored for future use.
However all water storage cisterns that are to be used for drinking or potable water supplies are at risk of contamination either from external sources or from bacterial growth during the water storage interval.
Cisterns may be located inside or outside of a building, and may be above ground or below ground level. Our photograph of a concrete cistern (above left) was taken in the basement of a 1920's home in New York state.
And of course a water pump (WATER PUMPS, TANKS, DIAGNOSTICS) and probably a water pressure tank (WATER TANK BLADDERS & CAPTIVE AIR) will be needed for ground-level or below-ground-level water storage cisterns.
Also see Water Tank Types and before assuming that a water problem is due to the well itself, see Water pump and pressure tank repair diagnosis & cost an specific case which offers an example of diagnosis of loss of water pressure, loss of water, and analyzes the actual repair cost.
Also see PLASTIC CONTAINERS, TANKS, TYPES and see WATER TANK SAFETY. Our page to photo shows an agricultural cistern located in central Mexico. This cistern was fed by a pump delivering water from a nearby drilled well that in turn had been sunk in the bottom of an older hand-dug well. Traditionally and still in some parts of the world people direct roof runoff from the rainy season into a cistern where it is stored for use during dry periods.
For repairing leaks in cisterns also see CAULKS_NONTOXIC
The basement cistern shown below is located below a pre-1900 home in New York. Later owners broke open a passage into the basement cistern and now use it for storage. This cistern was originally filled by downspouts directing roof runoff into the basement.
In a seasonally damp climate such as New York, an in-use basement cistern would certainly be a likely source of unwanted building moisture
An open indoor water tank (photos below) can also function as an intermediate limited-quantity water storage tank or in effect a "mini cistern" that stores local water for a building fed by gravity from an up-hill spring or artesian well.
At some locations there is an up-hill or rooftop water source which is fed into the building entirely by gravity. The open top water tank in these photos used a simple float valve to let water into this storage tank. Where such intermediate storage tanks, perhaps fed by an uphill spring, were located in the upper floors of a building they fed water to building piping where it could flow by gravity when a water tap was opened.
Our photographs show that this indoor water tank has rusted-through and is no longer functional, but the float assembly (photo above-right) makes clear how the tank worked.
Here we show two types of freestanding above-ground water storage tanks, at the Taboada Hot Springs (Guanajuato, Mexico, photo at left), and in Dutchess County, NY (photo below right).
Outdoor Cisterns, are often located in the basement or courtyard of buildings where they collect rainwater for future use. In arid areas such as the U.S. Southwest and parts of Mexico, very large cisterns are often placed in a courtyard where they collect rainwater for use during the dry season.
We prefer the ground-level water storage cistern shown below to the more traditional below-ground cisterns because the above-ground or on-ground rainwater tank can at least avoid contamination from surface water runoff that otherwise can enter a below-ground cistern.
Cisterns and HUD financing: HUD Handbook 4150.2 Section 3-6 indicates that properties served by cisterns are not acceptable for mortgage insurance. However, the HOCs have the authority to consider waivers in areas where cisterns are typical.
Our photo (above left) shows a hybrid system: this outdoor cistern is filled by pumping from an open casing in a drilled well that was inserted in the bottom of a dug well that went "dry" (photo, above right).
As will be apparent to readers, both the open top of this cistern and the open casing in the bottom of the dug well are sources of water contamination.
See WELL CLEARANCE DISTANCES for more information about cisterns, well and water source clearances from potential pollutant sources, and possible exceptions that can permit use of cisterns for drinking water supply.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about cisterns used for water storage or supply
Questions & answers or comments about using cisterns for drinking water.
Ask a Question or Enter Search Terms in the InspectApedia search box just below.
Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.