Water System Example #6 - Cistern Is Not Above the House

Example:

This example covers what to do with any of the previous situations when it is not possible to have a cistern above your building site. This applies to all the previous examples, with the exception of wells. Refer to Water System Example #5 for that.

Solution 1:

The most convenient way to handle this is to bury a water cistern near your building site and run your water supply into it just like you would have done with a cistern above the building site. But now, you don’t have gravity flow into your house. So we install a piston pump near the cistern. This pump then pressurizes a household diaphragm tank which keeps your water system pressurized until enough water is used to deplete the pressure. When this happens, the pump automatically turns on and re-pressurizes the diaphragm tank. The water pump runs on electricity, so it will be necessary to install an alternative energy system. Solution #2 could also be incorporated into this system to provide a backup in case of mechanical trouble.

Note: If the cistern is more than a couple hundred feet away from your home, you might want to use a piston pump configured for 120 volts AC or a 120 volt AC “soft start” submersible pump instead of a DC piston pump. DC electricity requires very large and expensive electrical wire, so it may not be desirable for long runs.

Solution 2:

This is a somewhat primitive solution, but it is quite reliable and requires no energy. It could also be used as a backup for solution #1. Just as we did in solution #1, we will bury a cistern near the building site and run our water source into it. The difference is that, instead of using an electric pump to move water to the house, we will install a pitcher pump. The bottom of the cistern would need to be less than 20 feet of elevation below any area of the house that requires water. This might involve having no water available on the second floor of the house (if applicable). Depending on your desired level of convenience, this could be a desirable option or a solid backup.

Solution 3:

For those of you who don’t mind being dependent on petroleum for your water system to operate, this could be worth looking at. Basically, we would install a large diaphragm tank and use a normal submersible water pump in our cistern to pressurize it. The pump is run by a generator which is only turned on when the diaphragm tank runs out. This is not an extremely desirable solution, but it is a simple one that could get you by in a pinch if an alternative energy system is not an option for you.

Nick Meissner

Nick Meissner’s adventure with homesteading and off-grid living began in the late '90s with a less-than-bare-bones budget. Over the past 12 years, Nick has taught thousands of people about renewable energy, homesteading, water systems, and independence in general. He's deeply in love with his beautiful wife Lisa and thoroughly enjoys their two children.

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