Assembling the components
Standard components of a cistern system include the following:
- A way for the water to enter the tank and a way for it to leave
- A drain that's used for periodic cleanouts
- An overflow pipe that allows excess water to leave the system in a controlled way
- A vent that allows air to come and go as the tank empties and fills
- An access door at the top that allows a worker to get inside to do servicing work
- Devices to keep animals from entering the tank
As for the tank itself, it can be made of steel, plastic, masonry, concrete, wood, or other materials. Composition is where sustainability goes a little sideways, because all these materials have significant environmental impacts. To boil a complex discussion down to the basics, avoid PVC tanks. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is the most popular tank material; it's fairly nontoxic as far as anyone knows, and it has the lowest impact of any suitable plastic. It's relatively inexpensive, but it's also totally butt-ugly, so plan to camouflage this sucker with plants or fencing. Sometimes, you can find a used HDPE or steel tank for cheap.
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Gardening is also a great way to provide healthy food for you and your loved ones. When you buy produce from the store, it just isnt the same as presenting a salad to your family that came exclusively from your garden worked by your own two hands.
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