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Why did I build a cistern?  Well, it's a long story...but here's the short version.
(If you just want the technical stuff, go here.)
(If you just want to see the photo gallery, go here.)

I learned from Bill (my neighbor) that a previous owner of my house decided to put the fence in the backyard; up until that time, there were no major rain water drainage issues.  As part of installing the fence, this guy decided that a raised mound running along the fence line would be an awesome addition.  It wasn't.  Basically this guy created a retaining wall for the runoff...and a temporary pond for me!

Complicating matters is the size and drainage pattern of my roof; my entire back roof and part of the guest area drains to the back yard - it appears to be planned that way.  All that I can think is that prior to the addition of the moat-maker a.k.a 'raised mound under the fence', the yard drained pretty well.  In fact, Bill said that prior to the addition of the fence, he had never noticed any major drainage problems in what would become my yard.

When I first conceived of this project, I envisioned a series of small catch basins and a trenched pipe heading out past the fence.  However, I quickly became aware of just how much water was going to be coming off the roof.  During a series of storms in the early part of 2007, I found my yard flooded with hundreds of gallons of water.  Bill (to the rescue) offered me his submersible pump, with the equivalent of a fire hose for an outlet, and that took care of business - I was basically dry in a few put this into perspective for you - the pump was moving water at a rate of ~200 gallons per hour....and it took a few hours!  After seeing this, I accepted that a few $35 catch basins from Lowes were not going to solve my problems.

What emerged was the cistern and the irrigation system that it feeds.  The cistern itself has a capacity of ~750 gallons and is constructed in a baffle-weir style.  It has a passive overflow to take any 'excess' water well beyond the fence line and a pump to distribute water to the garden and the rest of the greenery.  By using the rainwater to water everything outside, I'm saving ~$10 per month on the water bills during the summer - in addition to gaining a DRY backyard.

If you'd like to see all of the technical details or if you'd like to build your own without repeating my mistakes, please visit the Cistern Construction section of my site.  Otherwise, feel free to look at a few of the photos that I took during construction.




Michael Sheppard | | 2019  Michael Sheppard - 2014