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Cistern Construction

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I can't emphasize this too much - planning is critical!  Having said that, the first step in creating that plan is sizing your cistern.  A few key things will factor into this:  average rainfall, roof acreage and what you'll be doing with the cistern (i.e. are you planning to use the water or just collect it to prevent flooding?).  When I was in my initial planning stage, I found The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting to be quite helpful.  It is mostly geared towards those who are constructing cisterns to cover complete water usage (i.e. drinking water, bathing, irrigation, etc...) but it is still highly informative.

So, first things first - what are you going to do with a cistern?!  My initial answer was flood control; after I gave it some thought, however, I realized that there was the potential to do more.  That potential - for me - was irrigation; I take pride in my greenery and (when it doesn't rain) I need to make sure that the vegetables get some water.  Redirecting my roof runoff (that would otherwise amount to a flooded back yard), towards useful purposes around the house and garden seemed like a natural fit.  My answer doesn't need to be your answer, though.  Perhaps flood control and run-off prevention are all that matter to you...on the other hand, perhaps you are way more adventurous than I, and you want to run your toilets 'off the grid'!

Once you know what you'll be doing with your water, you can start to look at what your daily usage will be.  My irrigation system, as an example, has eighteen heads.  Fourteen of these irrigation heads dispense water at a rate of 0.60 gallons per minute and the remaining four will each dispense at a rate of 0.35 gpm; in all, that amounts to 9.8 gallons per minute.  Basically, I assumed that I'd run the full system for 5 minutes at a time, so my daily usage is 49 gallons.  If you are planning to supply a toilet with a cistern system, you'll need to know your tank's gpf - gallons per flush.  If you don't already know what that is, typically you can find it by removing the tank's lid - a toilet's gpf is most often specified on the tank interior.  In any case, if knowing how much water you will be using daily is absolutely critical (meaning that you won't be able to flush!) - then I'd suggest adding a safety factor at this stage - as opposed to down the road - that way your calculations will favor the 'oops...I used more than I planned' scenarios.

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