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Cistern Construction

Research ProgramsOk - the now for the fun stuff - Building it!

Well, not quite - there are a few last planning details.  I previously mentioned that I have an overflow. 

-> You need an overflow. 
-> You need an overflow. 
-> You need an overflow. 

Why am I repeating myself, you ask?  Let's just say that I have a friend who forgot that I mentioned it!  In all seriousness, make sure that your overflow line is downhill from your cistern and has a cover-grill or grate on the opening - you don't want small, furry friends making a home in your overflow pipe - bad for you and bad for them!  I have a small plastic grate over the top of my overflow discharge pipe and if you didn't know where to look, you would never even know it was there.

Another key planning item is pumping; you'll need to plan how the water will be pumped out of your cistern.  Obviously you'll need to size your pump appropriately for the task - I picked a 1 HP 'dirty water' pump that could deliver about 50 gpm in my system; it's essentially a step above a sump pump in terms of power and ability to handle 'dirty' water (think bits of leaves, etc..)  You'll also need to plan how you'll pipe out the water from your pump. 

-> You will need to plan your piping. 
-> You will need to plan your piping.
-> You will need to plan your piping. 

Why am I repeating myself this time?  No, not my friend, again...this one is all me!  I was completely finished with the masonry when I was asked, "How are you going to pump out the water?"  I remember pointing to a brick and replying, "I bought a pump and the water will be piped out right here."  Oops!  Needless to say, I did a little rework and now there are pipes where I had pointed.

Ok - Building it!  First off, let me discourage you from digging the hole for a 750 gallon cistern by hand; I cannot tell you what possessed me to do this - but I can tell you that it was slow and difficult.  Trust me - save yourself the hassle and and just go to the rental store and rent a small backhoe or excavator. 

Once I had completed the pit - I laid a sand and gravel base and tamped it flat.  Above the gravel, I laid blocks and poured a concrete floor; while the concrete was wet, I situated the first layer of bricks.  I used cinderblock bricks for the project, partly because they are used often in basements and partly because they are inexpensive.

I built three sections into the cistern, forming a baffle-weir system - as shown in the sketch, below.  Water flows into section one; 'floaters' rise to the top and cannot pass through the gates at the base.  Section two allows the heavier particles to settle to the bottom and only 'semi-clear' water passes into section three, where the pump is housed.  Additionally, the cistern has a passive overflow to take any 'excess' water well beyond the fence line.  Once I was completely done with the masonry (and the piping had been installed) I used tar to seal the all of the interior surfaces.  I've inspected the interior in detail on a few occasions and I'm very happy with how it has performed.



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