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  #1  
Old 03/30/11, 10:36 AM
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Basement Cistern for New House

We're designing and hope to start construction sometime soon on a new farmhouse on the farm we recently purchased in the Ozarks. We're from SE TX and thus have zero experience with basements; however, we definitely are planning a huge basement for use as a storm cellar, root cellar, storage, pantry, and additional living area. I would like, as an auxiliary source of water, to install a cistern in the basement beneath the kitchen and have a nice shallow well/cistern pump at the kitchen sink in addition to standard plumbing and well water/rural water. Anyone have any experience/advise as to design/construction of such a system. What vendor(s) have tanks that might work? Should the cistern be dug in below basement grade? Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks.

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Last edited by ReluctantLawyer; 03/30/11 at 10:37 AM. Reason: left word out
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  #2  
Old 03/30/11, 11:11 AM
Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs
 
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Location: VT
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I don't know about vendors or tanks, ours is built out of cinderblock bricks and mortar, but our cistern has SAVED OUR BUTTS so many times I can't tell you. Right now our water line is frozen. In a contemporary house.. well, frankly, I have no idea what the solution would be, but you can bet it would be expensive. In a house with a cistern the solution is a sap tank on the back of a pickup and a hose. Fetch water, drain into basement cistern.. you're good to go. We've been doing this for a month now. Is it "fun?" Well.. no. But is it cheap? Yes. Doable? Yes. Do I love my cistern?

Oh yes.

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  #3  
Old 03/30/11, 11:12 AM
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Eastern Saskatchewan
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Are you catching rain water off your roof? We have a modern home with cistern here on our farm. We use well water for our drinking, and cistern for washing, etc. Summer rainfall is quite stable in or area, and we use exclusively cistern in the spring summer and fall. Winter we go to well water.

It is set up to be easily switched back and forth in the case of dry weather. One set of pipes, three types of water. Well, cistern, and pond water from ort dugout. They can all be diverted to specific taps, toilets, or out to the barn with the flip of a switch or the turn of a valve. Nothing like rainwater for washing clothes/bathing in. Any specific questions?

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Old 03/30/11, 11:17 AM
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All of this is helpful. I had not gotten to the point of thinking of rainwater catchment specifically. farmerDale, is your cistern in your basement? Seems that to have cistern pump in kitchen one would need to have the cistern in the basement below the kitchen sink. If you're using rainwater from cistern for bathing, washing clothes, etc., are you using an electric pump from the cistern? Thx.

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  #5  
Old 03/30/11, 11:20 AM
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Also, Morrison, is your cinderblock cistern water potable? Is the cistern below basement grade? I wondered if you had a leak if it would flood the basement? Thx.

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  #6  
Old 03/30/11, 12:53 PM
 
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Location: Eastern Saskatchewan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ReluctantLawyer View Post
All of this is helpful. I had not gotten to the point of thinking of rainwater catchment specifically. farmerDale, is your cistern in your basement? Seems that to have cistern pump in kitchen one would need to have the cistern in the basement below the kitchen sink. If you're using rainwater from cistern for bathing, washing clothes, etc., are you using an electric pump from the cistern? Thx.


An inch of rain on our roof gives us a couple thousand gallons of water. Our cistern is in our basement with its own pressure tank and small electric pump. From the pressure tank, I can feed it to specific lines for specific uses if needed. These lines need to be labeled.

When not in use in winter, a switch on the wall turns off the pump, a ball valve turns off the flow, and prevents backflowing from whichever other water source is in use.

You just need to have a properly branched and plumbed piping system to split it for all the uses you have for each specific water type. I can run the kitchen sink with cistern water, but right beside it have well water coming out of the tall drinking water tap, just by a couple of ball valves and some foresight in planning, for example.
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  #7  
Old 04/14/11, 12:05 PM
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This might be a silly question - but what's the purpose of the cistern? Well water will be reliable in the ozarks, in most areas. If you need a cistern, put it in series with the well pump, so the well fills the cistern and a jet pump supplies the house.

I will be doing this soon, on account of a low production well. Mine will be set up with a bypass valve so that if the cistern or pump fails I can run directly off the well pump until I get it fixed. If the well fails I can make it a week or two on the cistern or truck water from town.

I wouldn't glorify these things - well pumps are reliable but frustrating to work on. To put in a cistern you are doubling the amount of maintenance required and the chances of a failure happening. If you are worried about water in a well pump failure, can you throw a tank in the back of the pickup truck and haul it, or run a hose to a neighbors house? You can flush a toilet with a five gallon bucket and pond water. The water heater stores about 40 gallons of potable water.

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  #8  
Old 04/19/11, 09:38 PM
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: kansas
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To the OP to answer your original question, the cistern does not need to be below the grade of the basement floor. And you can put it inside the basement if you want to or
you can have just a small portion protruding into the basement and the remainder on the outside of the house. or onother option is to have a large pipe come from the bottom of the cistern into the basement through the wall then turn straight up and mount your hand pump so it draws form that pipe. These last 2 options allow for having a much bigger cistern without compromising your usable basement space. As for water catchment simply arrange your downspouts into a barrel that is made into a sediment filter and then drain the barrel into the cistern you will probably still want to filter it for drinking but otherwise it will be clean enough for any other use. Your best bet for construction is to have the contractor who does your basement also do your cistern. Last but not least be sure to install an overflow pipe in your cistern to prevent it from getting to full. feel free to ask any other questions .
Ray

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Last edited by ROCKIN R FARM; 04/19/11 at 09:40 PM.
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  #9  
Old 04/20/11, 10:10 AM
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Thx for the input, all. Rockin R Farm, do you have such a system in place? If so, I wouldn't mind communicating privately and maybe trying to get photos to discuss with the foundation crew.

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  #10  
Old 04/20/11, 09:37 PM
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: kansas
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R L No I dont have such a system yet but in the area I live I have seen several old farm houses with this type of set up. Also the house I grew up in had a cistern just outside the house that had the rain gutter draining into it through a sediment type filter I can go into more details if you like.
send me a pm with any specific questions.

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  #11  
Old 04/20/11, 10:03 PM
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Illinois
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Can you please go into details here on the forum so that others can learn from it too? I am very interested in this idea too. I'm only in the dreaming and planning stages of my dream house but this concept is something that I would like to add
Thanks,
Aimee

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  #12  
Old 04/25/11, 12:18 AM
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: kansas
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Sorry I was gone for a few days, I'll do my best to try to explain.
I have seen some houses where the cistern was basically a part of the poured concrete basement kind of like a room with no door if you are going to use an electric pump only then the cistern can be on the outside of the basement if you would like to be able to use a hand pump... say , in the kitchen for instance then a small portion of that "room" would need to be underneath the kitchen to facilitatate the pipe from the pump. Or

You can make the cistern completely separate from the basement out of poured concrete with its own 4 walls, floor and cieling and then run a pipe from the bottom of the cistern running horizantaly out the bottom of the cistern wall then burried in the ground over to the house, through the basement wall preferably to the spot it would need to be for the hand pump then turn the pipe 90 derees so that it is now running verticly then as soon as you make the 90 degree turn step the pipe up to a large diameter like 6" then run that up to the basement cieling the 6" pipe is big enough to accomodate the pick up pipe from the hand pump and any water you pump out will be gravity fed from the bottom of the cistern through the pipe you ran into the house. Keep in mind that which ever way you decide is best for you you must have an overflow pipe to divert water out of the cistern once it reaches the "full" mark.

Now as far as running the rain guttters into your cisternther are special attachments made that can be installed in your down spouts to divert the first bit of rain water out onto the ground since it is the "dirtiest" then switch bact to draining into your cistern. you can also incorporate a sediment filter . I have seen these made from plastic 55 gal barrels or pieces of concrete storm drain pipe basically its a barred with gravel and sand and ours when I was a kid also used charcoal. Basicly water drains into the top from the downspouts then out the bottom into the cistern. A WORD OF CAUTION this water will be clean enough to do laundry, bathe ect BUT IT MUST BE PROPERLY FILTERED AND TREATED IF NEEDED before drinking. There are many resourses out there if you search for Rain water catchment systems you will get lots of great Ideas.

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Last edited by ROCKIN R FARM; 04/25/11 at 12:23 AM.
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