What Is the Difference Between a Well and A Cistern?

What Is the Difference Between a Well and A Cistern?

What Is the Difference Between a Well and A Cistern?

A well is simply a hole dug in the ground that is used to access water. A cistern, on the other hand, is a water storage tank. It can be made of many different materials, including concrete, metal, or plastic.

One of the main differences between a well and a cistern is that a cistern can hold significantly more water than a well. This is because a well is limited by the amount of space that is available around it. A cistern can be much larger, allowing it to store more water. Cisterns are also often used to store rainwater.

Another difference between a well and a cistern is the way that they are accessed. A well is accessed by lowering a bucket or a tube down into the water. A cistern, on the other hand, is typically accessed by a valve on the top. This allows people to easily get water from the tank without having to go down into it.

Finally, a cistern can also be used to store water that is not potable. This means that the water can be used for things like irrigation or washing, but it cannot be used for drinking. Wells, on the other hand, typically only store potable water.

A well taps into underground water, and consumers have to use a pump or a bucket to draw water from below.

A cistern is a container found either aboveground or underground that is designed to store water, not tap an existing water source.

Cisterns are used for the purpose of storing rainwater, although people can also fill them by pumping wells into them or trucking in water.

While cisterns collect runoff rainwater, wells tap into supplies of groundwater like an underground aquifer. Both wells and cisterns hold and provide water, but their collection process is different.

How to Dig a Well?

Digging a well is a complex process that requires careful planning and permits. It is usually done by professionals using heavy equipment, but it can also be done by hand.

When digging a well by hand, the first step is to dig a hole of the desired diameter and depth. The excavated material should be placed in good ground and five inches in poor soil. Shutters should then be set in place to prevent rounding of the edges of the excavation.

When drilling with a boring bit, the well hole should be filled with water before inserting the drill bit. The bit will drill through all soil types, but when it hits clay or rock, the process will slow down.

It can take anywhere from 15 hours to weeks depending on the soil type, so make sure you have enough people to help with the process. Depending on your soil type, you may not need an 8-inch PVC pipe for stability.

How Deep Should a Well Be

The typical depth of a residential well ranges from 100 feet to 800 feet deep, but some wells are even 1000 feet or deeper. The deeper a well is, the better the water quality.

The average well depth in a given location depends on several factors such as geology, water quality and quantity, water table, and risk of contaminants.

Well drilling companies use their expertise and experience to determine how deep the well needs to be.

In general, the deeper the well, the greater the likelihood for increased minerals in the water which may require a water softening system.

Pumps should never be set directly at the bottom of a well. It is usually best to place the pump 10 to 20 feet up from the bottom of the well.



Cisterns can be constructed from a variety of materials including cast-in-place reinforced concrete, cinderblock and concrete, brick or stone set with mortar and plastered with cement on the inside, ready-made steel tanks, precast concrete tanks, redwood tanks, and fiberglass.

If cinderblock or concrete block is used for the walls of the cistern, all hollow cores should be filled with concrete and reinforcing rods should be placed vertically to add strength to the structure.

Footers may be necessary for larger cisterns. The level of water stored in underground cisterns is lower than the points of use within the distribution system so a pump and pressurized system are usually required.

To build a rainwater catchment cistern, first build outside forms and then install #6 rebar wired together on an approximate 1 foot grid. Next pour the floor.

Build a rectangular framework from 2 x 4s and secure it with 2 x 4 stakes driven into the ground at intervals of about 2 feet. When doing concrete flat work, fasten the stakes to …

The cistern walls were constructed by first building the outside forms and then installing #6 rebar wired together on an approximate 1 foot grid.

This grid was set into holes bored into the concrete floor of the cistern with a hammer drill. The grid was propped into place, holes were marked, stock was bent into right angles. With the reinforcing grid in place it was time to build inside forms.

The process for building your own water cistern system includes buying the right water cistern, choosing a pump, connecting it to your cistern and adding water.

There are also do-it-yourself water cisterns that aren’t made out of concrete such as polyethylene tanks that can hold up to 6k gallons of water.

How to Maintain a Cistern?

To maintain a cistern, regular inspections and maintenance are important to keep it in good condition

Cleaning and sanitizing the cistern at least once per year is recommended to remove sediment and other contaminants.

This can be done by the homeowner in minimal time and cost. The steps for cleaning a cistern include removing all debris and water, scrubbing the inside with a solution of bleach and water, rinsing with clean water, draining, and refilling with clean water.

In addition to cleaning, disinfecting the cistern may be necessary if it has been away from home for weeks or months or if it uses untreated water with open connections.

Disinfection involves closing valves to any treatment systems connected to the cistern, removing debris from the catchment area, draining and scrubbing the inside of the cistern with a solution of bleach and water, rinsing with clean water, draining again, refilling with clean water, and testing for bacteria.

It is recommended to test the water in a cistern at least twice a year for routine monitoring as well as whenever there is a change in quality.

How to Maintain a Well?

To maintain a well, it is important to schedule an annual check-up with a professional contractor to verify that there is proper separation between the well, home, waste systems, and chemical storage facilities.

The National Ground Water Association recommends checking wells annually for mechanical problems, cleanliness, and the presence of certain contaminants such as coliform bacteria, nitrates/nitrites, arsenic and radon.

It is also important to keep hazardous chemicals such as paint, fertilizer, pesticides and motor oil away from the well.

Periodically check the well cover or cap on top of the casing (well) to ensure it is in good repair. Slope the ground away from your well for proper drainage when landscaping.

Take care in working or mowing around your well – a damaged casing could jeopardize the sanitary protection of your well. Don’t pile snow, leaves or other materials around your well.

It is recommended to use licensed water well drillers and pump installers when a well is constructed or serviced. Keep records of construction reports as well as annual water system maintenance and water testing results in a safe place.

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