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What is a Cistern?                                       

Feb 16, 2023 10:30:00 AM / by David C Sulock

Have a home older than 80 years?  You may have a cistern.

What is a Cistern?  A cistern is a buried tank, commonly made of brick or metal, and is designed to store water. Cisterns are typically designed for capturing and storing rainwater.  Cisterns are not cesspools that are for septic.

Today some people use rain barrels, so you can think of a cistern as a buried rain barrel.

cistern closure

The water collected in cisterns historically was utilized for two purposes: domestic use and consumption.

Domestic uses of the water are flushing toilets and watering landscaping.  Since water stored is from rainwater the owner of a cistern could reduce the costs associated with the delivery of potable water from utilities.  It could also supplement water from wells on a site that people would use for human consumption.  

Questions? 888-301-1050

You may find you have a cistern by constant settlement in your yard like the photo below or by doing a GPR survey to scan for voids.  GPR Survey many residential due diligence oil tank sweeps find cisterns when GPR is used.    

evaluating a sink hole

what is a cistern?This cistern was found from the settlement in the photo to the right.   The cistern lost some integrity allowing collapse in a section of the walls, which allowed soils to seep into the cistern void.  This home was circa 1925.    The owner wanted the liability removed so the cistern was filled in place as it had not been used in years.  There are several feet of water at the bottom of this cistern and a person or animal falling into this would hurt.

Curren has over 25 years of experience in decommissioning and abandoning buried tanks.  We recently completed a tank sweep for a home sale.  The GPR survey located a buried metal tank behind the garage which was either an old gas tank, oil tank, or cistern.  Turns out it was a cistern.

Cistern closure and abandonment

cistern abandonment

Ground Penetrating Radar Surveys for Cisterns

Questions? 888-301-1050

What is a cistern?


David C Sulock

Written by David C Sulock

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