Rainwater Cisterns: A Sustainable Solution for Water Conservation

Last Updated on April 13, 2023 by Mattias

Rainwater cisterns, or rainwater tanks, are an increasingly popular and eco-friendly method of collecting and storing rainwater for later use. By implementing a rainwater cistern system, homeowners and businesses can significantly reduce their reliance on municipal water supplies, lower their water bills, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of rainwater cisterns, guide in selecting the right cistern for your needs, and offer tips for installation and maintenance.

Benefits of Rainwater Cisterns

Rainwater cisterns provide a range of benefits for both the environment and your wallet. Some of the primary advantages include:

  • Water conservation: Collecting rainwater reduces the demand for potable water and helps conserve this valuable resource.
  • Cost savings: By using rainwater for irrigation, cleaning, and other non-potable purposes, you can significantly reduce your water bills.
  • Stormwater management: Capturing rainwater can help alleviate pressure on stormwater systems and reduce the risk of flooding.
  • Improved plant health: Rainwater is free of chemicals like chlorine, which are often found in tap water, making it ideal for watering plants.
  • Drought resilience: Storing rainwater in cisterns can provide a supplementary water source during periods of drought.

Types of Rainwater Cisterns

Several types of rainwater cisterns are available, each with unique features and benefits. Some of the most common types include:

Aboveground Cisterns

Aboveground cisterns are the simplest and most cost-effective option. They are typically made of plastic, metal, or concrete and can be installed alongside a building or in an open area. Aboveground cisterns are easy to install and maintain but may be less aesthetically pleasing than other options.

Belowground Cisterns

Belowground cisterns are installed underground, making them less visible and more space-efficient. They can be made from various materials, including plastic, fiberglass, and concrete. While belowground cisterns offer a more discreet appearance, they may require more extensive excavation and installation efforts and additional maintenance due to their underground location.

Bladder Tanks

Bladder tanks, also known as pillow tanks or flexible tanks, are made from durable, puncture-resistant materials and can be installed above or below ground. They can be easily rolled up and transported when empty, making them an ideal option for temporary or remote water storage needs.

Choosing the Right Rainwater Cistern

When selecting a rainwater cistern, consider the following factors:

  • Capacity: Choose a cistern size that meets your water storage requirements, considering your catchment area, average rainfall, and intended usage.
  • Material: Consider the durability, cost, and maintenance requirements of different cistern materials, such as plastic, metal, concrete, or fiberglass.
  • Location: Evaluate the available space on your property and determine whether an aboveground, belowground, or bladder tank is most suitable.
  • Aesthetics: If appearance is a priority, consider a cistern that blends well with your property’s surroundings or can be concealed with landscaping.

Installing and Maintaining Your Rainwater Cistern

Proper installation and maintenance are essential for ensuring the longevity and efficiency of your rainwater cistern system. Here are some key steps and tips for a successful installation and maintenance process:


  • Site preparation: Choose a level, stable area for your cistern, and ensure it is properly supported to prevent sinking or shifting over time.
  • Gutter and downspout modifications: Connect your roof gutters and downspouts to the cistern’s inlet, making sure to include a leaf diverter or gutter guard to prevent debris from entering the cistern.
  • Overflow management: Install an overflow pipe that directs excess water away from your property’s foundation to prevent erosion or flooding.
  • Accessories: Consider adding a first-flush diverter to capture the initial runoff, which may contain contaminants, before it enters the cistern. A pump may also be necessary for distributing water from the cistern to its intended usage points.


  • Regular inspections: Inspect your cistern, gutters, and downspouts for leaks, cracks, or other damage at least twice a year. Also, check the leaf diverter or gutter guard for debris buildup.
  • Cleaning: Empty and clean your cistern every few years to remove sediment and algae buildup. Use a mild, eco-friendly cleaner and rinse thoroughly.
  • Pest prevention: Ensure that all openings are properly sealed to prevent insects, rodents, or other pests from entering the cistern.
  • Water quality: If using rainwater for potable purposes, regularly test the water quality and ensure that appropriate filtration and disinfection systems are in place.

Rainwater Cistern Regulations and Rebates

Before installing a rainwater cistern, research local regulations and permitting requirements, as they can vary by region. In some areas, rainwater harvesting may be encouraged through rebate programs or tax incentives. Check with your local municipality or water authority for information on any available programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I determine the right size for my rainwater cistern?

A: To determine the appropriate size for your cistern, consider factors such as your catchment area, average rainfall, and intended usage. A general rule of thumb is to aim for a cistern capacity that can store approximately one month’s worth of your typical water usage.

Rainwater Cistern Summary

Rainwater cisterns are an excellent solution for water conservation, offering a range of benefits for both the environment and your wallet. By understanding the different types of cisterns available, considering factors such as capacity, material, and location, and properly installing and maintaining your cistern, you can create a sustainable and efficient rainwater harvesting system for your property. Explore more about rainwater collection tanks and the best options for harvesting rainwater.

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