Thursday, June 18, 2009

We have a cistern!

No, for real, we do! It just amazes me what one can discover about the house one has lived in for almost five years now.

Actually, when we bought the house we didn't know we had a cistern. However, after a couple of years and idle chat about having one put in, we finally put 2 & 2 together (the first "2" = the big manhole-like cover of a hole in our basement with all the floors sloping towards it; the second "2" = well, just us being dense, I guess). However, for some reason I'd thought that the cistern had been filled in. Now, while it might be cheaper to just kill a weekend with a shovel & some rope digging out an old cistern than having a new one installed, it still wasn't my idea of a good time.

But today I went down to the deep freeze to grab out some stuff and actually looked at the hole (why had I never done this before?). The hole is very firmly covered and secured by thick wood--which is a good thing--but one piece of wood had come off and so I looked in.

No fill. Just hole.


One of the big concerns we've had for some time is how to get water during emergencies, or for if/when our city can no longer afford the cost of water treatment. We're surrounded by water that we could always just go & get with buckets, but even on fairly strict water rationing, most families use at least 10-20 gallons a day. Average usage is closer to 100 gallons/day. Don't believe this? Do two experiments. First, if your kitchen faucet doesn't indicate otherwise, it's probably about a 2.5 gal/minute faucet. Do your dishes and time how long it took (if you're like most Americans, you leave the water running the whole time). Yeah. And that was just on dishes. Second experiment, go get your water bill and look.

So anyway, hauling anything between 10-100 gallons of water every farking day just doesn't sound like a good time either. We've got rain barrels, three of 'em actually, that each hold ~50 gallons and refill quite efficiently. That would probably keep us in water for a bit, assuming no devastating dry spells.

But. There's a hole in our basement, dear Liza, dear Liza. There's a hole in our basement, dear Liza, a hole!

So now, there are several things to do. First, determine whether or not we're even staying here. My husband has not yet landed a job (although it's still early in the teaching cycle, so we're not panicky yet--yet). Even without a job, we might try and stay and find make-work. Or we might give it up as a failed project and move out to the family farm. If we move, well, I'm not throwing $$$ into fixing up a part of our house that any potential buyer will likely regard as "a hole in the basement". Assuming we do stay, however, we would need to get the cistern inspected, and I suspect have it lined or cleaned somehow. We would need to create a way to channel our rainwater into it (this should be pretty easy, as our basement floor slopes down toward it already), and we'll need some way to deal with overflow. We would also need a pump. In an ideal world, we'd also have a way to get it into our hot water heater, but frankly if we're using the cistern heavily, I suspect the hot water heater will be a distant memory. We've already got a Berkey water filter, which can handle more or less any nasty thing we might put into it, so we're good for clean water.

This might actually be doable.