The Wonderful World of Cisterns

A long time ago people used to think of ways to conserve water, thus helping the environment and the sustainability of the earth.  Groovy huh? 🙂  And we thought recycling was a new concept!!

It’s been interesting finding out about our house.  It was built in the 50’s.  We’ve been able to step back in time and see how people on the prairies lived not that long ago.  In our basement we have a cistern.  Cistern’s have been used for centuries.  We may think we are the guru’s of sustainable living, but our ancestors were pretty up on the ballpoint.

A cistern was used a lot in the prairies to collect rainwater.  Usually it was used for laundry, washing the dishes or flushing the toilet.  Some were built of brick, some of stone.  Ours because of the age was built with cement.  There probably was a trap door or something to access it from the top.  Probably a pretty good place to hide the evidence.  What’s really neat, is I learned that some cisterns from yesteryear actually had partitions for filtering particles.

Our cistern does not look like this 😦

800px-El_Jadida_cistern Description : Portuguese cistern El Jadida in Morocco/ Português: Cisterna manuelina em Mazagão, Marrocos. Date 28 February 2007, 13:46 Source El Jadida : Citerne portugaise Author Axel Rouvin from Bordeaux, France used with persmissions granted from Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic l

Our cistern looks like this


Side view


You can see how people of cut through the stone.


The walls are quite thick.


now used for storage.


Would have been interesting to see what this looked like 60 years ago.

In the 50’s in Toronto, piped water and electricity were the norm.  Here in the prairies – rural (which mean 98%  of the land), those modern conveniences ….. I don’t think they were here actually.  All the museums I’ve been to they show life on the prairies with oil lights and pumping water.  I know my dad in the 40’s on the farm did not have any of this.  You went to the outhouse and were happy with your outhouse.  You pumped water for the sheer exhilaration of pumping water…… I’d die if I ever went back in time.

A teacher I work with was telling me how in the 70’s, there were still party lines for farming communities.  (Party lines are shared lines.  Meaning if you picked up your phone, you might hear your neighbour talking to their sister from another province and you could join in the conversation.  Think the 1950’s movie Pillow talk with Doris Day.  Awesome movie by the way.  You should watch it).

Cisterns are being used all over the world right now.  I was actually surprised to see how many people did not know what a cistern was when I brought it up. Considering how beneficial they are, it’s kind of sad only 200 000 are in use in the US and not enough data is available to let us know about Canada.

Living so far from cities in present day is a pain in the ass.  (The sidekick had a hospital appointment in Regina.  We left at 9am and came back at 6:30.  His appointment lasted 1 1/2 hours. )  I can only imagine that living life out here must of been a pain in the ass back then – (says me who loves her creature comforts).  But living in a small house, downsizing, and learning about all this cool stuff is showing me how far I need to go to truly have a smaller carbon footprint … a simpler life with less “stuff”.

…….I still want a bigger master bedroom….just saying……



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