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My take on a cistern

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by oil pan 4, Aug 26, 2016.

  1. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+

    One thing I never liked about cisterns was how you end up with a nice layer of gunk in the bottom of the tank. I was thinking what if I could clean out a below ground cistern?
    Of course I could.
    I think this is how I would build one. Normally I can keep the gunk cleaned out of the bottom by occasionally flushing it.
    The reason why it would have gunk is because it would be roof water.
  2. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Connected to a sewer like that violates all codes and common sense IF you intend the collected water for consumption and in most jurisdicions for any purpose. At the minimum, you will need a vented trap.
    Shotgunpapa, sec_monkey and BTPost like this.
  3. T. Riley

    T. Riley Monkey+++ Site Supporter++

    I am always amazed to hear people talk about codes. I live outside any town jurisdiction. I did not have to get a single permit, inspection or follow any urban code when my house was built. Owning over 10 acres, did not even have to build a septic system, could have run it out down the pasture. I did build one for the toilets but my grey water just waters the pasture grass.
    Ganado and Cruisin Sloth like this.
  4. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    @T. Riley That all depends on where you live... and the State & Local Requirements.... Here in Bush Alaska, we have to just deal with ADEC Regs (Alaska Dept of Environmental Conservation) on Brown & Gray Water.... Local Borough, City, & Village Regs, usually defer to ADEC Regs, but "MAY" include more stringent requirements..... I have NO Building Code Regs, for noncommercial Buildings, but Commercial Buildings must meet State Fire Codes....
    Shotgunpapa, Ganado and sec_monkey like this.
  5. duane

    duane Monkey++

    I had to clean out one a while back. Had the best luck with an air lift like the scuba divers use feeding into a hose fastened to a long stick. Created enough lift and suction to clean it well. Would use a swimning pool wand and pump if I had to do it over. I "follow" the codes as best I can as you never know when a "good" neighbor is going to turn you in or some new building inspector etc is going to do "his" job. Have shallow well with hand pump, deep well, and a lake about 600 feet away so haven't set up a rain water collection system yet, have the barrels and such, just not in use.
    Shotgunpapa likes this.
  6. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    It really makes no difference if there is a code or not in this case. Cross contamination WILL happen, with serious health consequences. Makes no difference to me if you care to ignore safety as long as you don't subject others to a bad situation.
    Yard Dart and sec_monkey like this.
  7. Dont

    Dont Just another old gray Jarhead Monkey Site Supporter

    My cistern gets a thin layer of silt on the bottom and I do not clean it unless there's a dead mouse down there..
    I have used a 5 gallon bucket, a shop vac with a PVC pipe extension on it to clean things up.. Shop vac doesn't hane enough suction to pull the water and mouse bits all the way out, but, one can lift the pipe enough to allow the content of the pipe to fall into the bucket.. Pull the bucket up by the rope and dump the critter bits out and go back for more...

    Bleach the ever lovin hell out of it afterwards!!
  8. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey++

    Out of curiosity (and since I have a 1500 gallon cistern) about how often does one have to clean out a cistern in a normal situation? We've been here 17 months and the house/cistern was built in 2009 but when I last look (when first got here) it looked okay; I mean, I wasn't looking to see if it needed cleaning but nothing appeared overly bad.

    @Don't How in the world did you get a mouse in your cistern? Isn't it a closed system? I can't see any way a mouse could get into ours.
    sec_monkey likes this.
  9. techsar

    techsar Monkey++

    The cistern at my mom's place had to be cleaned out...ummm...never. And that's been after 40+ years. Now the filter has needed cleaning about every 10-12 years....fiberglass matting and activated charcoal, inside of a twin-chamber masonry box.
    Gator 45/70 and Ganado like this.
  10. Cruisin Sloth

    Cruisin Sloth Special & Slow

    cistern of one is never the same as another EVER ! So cleaning is if it's open to sun / air/ buried or a sub tank all makes a difference .
    Dean mouse or critter is YUCK & "NOT EVER going to happen here" Were talking drinking water , carbon filters are for smell & will not get rid of rabid mouse / rat boogers .
  11. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+

    We have a lot of dirt and dust here. If there is a haboob it tends to rain mud.
    I figure all the dirt in the air and on the roof would end up in the cistern.
    If there is not much dust and dirt where you live then it may never be a problem.
  12. Altoidfishfins

    Altoidfishfins Monkey++

    Nice drawing OP4. I would allow the water to drain, or be pumped, on to trees and shrubs. But I'm a long time desert rat.
  13. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    If you use plants you don't have to clean it out. Water gets cleaned in the world via plans mud and dirt.

    A mechanical solution is alot of work. start looking at cisterns in places like the middle east. They have huge underground cisterns that require maintenance but are mostly plant and fish based for keeping it clean.

    Other suggestion if you are lazy like me, lol at natural swimming pools. no chlorine just looks like a pond

    Houston has a huge underground cistern

    Sand Water Purifier | Survival Monkey Forums

    My Roof Rainwater Collection System | Survival Monkey Forums
  14. hot diggity

    hot diggity Monkey++

    Ah, a perfect example of how everything old is new again. There are lots details about how things were done in the good old days that I fear we are destined to relearn the hard way. Fortunately, cisterns I can remember.

    Grandma T's house had a cistern, steep green metal roof, trees all around the house and a manual diverter valve above the charcoal filter. After a rain the valve was moved to drain the gutters into the side yard flower bed. During the days without rain all sorts of crud would accumulate on the roof and in the gutters. No worries. Next rain Grandpa would just watch Hee Haw and relax while the roof got a good rinsing from the storm. An appropriate time later, (which was something that amazed me as a child, how old folks seemed to just "know" how long was long enough.) he'd reach out the screen door and flip the valve over to direct the now mostly clean rain water through the charcoal filter and into the cistern.

    I've told the story of the rabbit skeleton here some time ago, but I suspect that cistern had evaporated dry some time in the mid 1980's. Last time I raised the lid in the pantry floor to have a look down there was about 25 years ago, and even being completely forgotten and neglected there was little else down there but the bleached white bones of that poor rabbit. Haunting. Forever looking up at the light.

    Ganado likes this.
  15. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+

    I thought about the diverter valve but I have also seen it not rain for 9 months here. Times like that you got to take the good (water) with the bad (all the crud).

    I was thinking that too. When I were to clean it out I was thinking if it were full I would pump the water out on to the yard then leave an inch or 2 of water over the dirt layer and pull the plug and hit the clingy gunk with my pressure washer to convince it to go down the hole.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 27, 2016
  16. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    What is the water being used for ?
    Cistern or well water should be filtered any way ,assuming nothing.
    My garden water comes from the fish tank, and is supplied water from a laundry tray, float controlled from the city water to my house.
    The cleanest water comes from the garden but I would still filter it any way.
    yes i filter the city water.
    when i lived in the mountains and had a well we filtered that water too.
    BTW all that silt and scum needs to go in the garden .
    I wash out the fish tank filters in the garden too ,the plants love it. i think.
    PH average is bout 7 .
    If you were to run a water pump from the base of the cistern and cycle that water through a aquaponic raised garden and gravel/sand/charcoal filter, you would eliminate a lot of scum build up ,or all if the pump is more aggressive.
    Either it is going to cost you in clean up or in maintenance ,there's no getting around it.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2016
  17. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+

    I am thinking about using this as an alternative to a water softener.
    But its going to be a little difficult to implement.
    Alkalinity and total hardness are maxing out the test strips I have.
  18. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    Boiling will remove some of the calcium and hardness but I would only do that at the point of usage.
  19. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Not Boiling, but Distilling, will remove the Minerals, but NOT any Organics.... Boiling will tend to drive off any Organics, but leave the Minerals.... That is the difference between the two....
    Ganado likes this.
  20. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Only if you condense and retain the vapor. Dissolved and suspended minerals will remain in the pot.
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