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Building a cistern

Living the Country Life Radio Program with Betsy Freese

Save the rain

Listen here to the radio story (mp3)

Radio interview source: Bob Broz, water quality specialist, University of Missouri Extension

We uncovered a cistern on our place that is very likely as old as the farm itself. It was located just outside my back door. We were advised to plug it up because of safety concerns, so we filled it with sand. But, I wouldn't mind having it as a water source for my garden during dry weather. Apparently a lot of other acreage owners think that's a good idea, too, because cisterns are making a comeback.

A cistern works by a simple process. When it rains, water runs off the house and is collected in an underground tank. Bob Broz is a water quality specialist with the University of Missouri, and says to determine how big of a cistern you need, estimate total water consumption per day and what you're going to use it for. Then, look at the square footage of the house.

"We know that for every inch of rain that falls, we get about 0.7 gallons of water per square foot of roof. So if you've got a 2,000-square-foot house, and you get an inch of rain, you have the capability of catching 1,400 gallons of water.

The water is actually very clean. It hasn't been exposed to fertilizers or sewage treatment. If you intend to use it for drinking water, add a filtration system.

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