The Homestead Cistern

The homestead cistern is used to collect and store rainwater for use, includes tips on types of cisterns, cost of cisterns and building tips.

  • Learn how a homestead cistern can benefit your land.
    Learn how a homestead cistern can benefit your land.
    Photo By Fotolia/Hemeroskopion
  • Chart: Yield of rainwater roof area and capacity of round cisterns and tanks.
    Chart: Yield of rainwater roof area and capacity of round cisterns and tanks.
    By The MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff

  • Learn how a homestead cistern can benefit your land.
  • Chart: Yield of rainwater roof area and capacity of round cisterns and tanks.

Tips for building a homestead cistern, including the cost and types of cisterns available.

Whether your well has just gone dry and you need a new (and preferably low-cost) source of water . . . or that sprig you've been drawing from doesn't always produce as much as you (or your animals) would like . . . or you've grown tired of the taste of city water . . . you'll want to see what Penny and Lou Kujawinski (authors of the following article) have to say about their homestead cistern and how they collect and store rainwater for homestead use.

Have you ever looked at a pretty piece of land but hesitated to buy the property because it lacked water? (Quite often, an otherwise-attractive parcel of land that has no well, pond, stream, or spring will be priced so low that you may be tempted to buy the tract anyway.) Lack of ground water is a common problem . . . one that the folks in our part of Missouri — early settlers and present-day farmers alike — have learned to get around by the use of something known as a rainwater cistern.

A rainwater cistern is — as the name implies — simply a setup for collecting rainwater (usually the precipitation that falls on your home's or barn's roof) and storing it until it's needed in a (usually underground) concrete or masonry tank. Cisterns are ideal for farms and homesteads situated on waterless land, or for areas where the natural ground water is too hard — contains too many dissolved minerals — to drink, use for washing hair, etc. (Fact is, some of the people hereabouts who have good springs on their property have gone ahead and installed cisterns anyway, just because they prefer the taste of rainwater.)

We didn't feel out of place, then — upon moving to our present home — when we designed and constructed a simple rainwater-collection system large enough to supply all our needs for water. And — despite the limitations inherent in such a system — we've never regretted having gone this route. (It sure beats spending upwards of $1,000 to drill a well for water that may or may not be there!) Quite possibly, a cistern could be the answer to your water-supply problems, too.

How to Know Whether a Cistern is "Right" for You

Cisterns won't work for everybody. In fact, for such a setup to be at all useful, the following conditions must apply:

10/30/2019 9:11:55 PM

sos, "back in the day" I read an article in Mother about a pail that caught the first few gallons of rain water then the rest went into cistern I think it was around 1978-1980ish I could rally use that drawing about now anyone out there help?

2/22/2015 9:16:30 AM

We are considering buying a property with an underground cistern as the only water supply for the house. What questions should I ask regarding this and is this sufficient to support a family of four living with an annual avg rainfall of 10 in and an annual snowfall of 16 in.??

Pla Stic Mart
11/14/2011 10:50:02 PM

We would love to help out our fellow motherearthnews constituents. Whether it's above ground water storage tanks or below ground water storage cisterns, you can always get expert help and assistance at



Feb 19-20, 2022
Belton, Texas

Join us for a much anticipated return to the Lone Star State! Earlybird ticket discounts are now available online.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters