December ushered in a renewed energy to complete the cabin. One of the projects completed in December was a water delivery system. I wrestled with the idea of a well vs a cistern as a water delivery system.
In a previous life, my wife and I owned acreage with a well east of Parker Colorado for over 20 years. I generally agree about the benefits of water wells, such as reliability, cost-effectiveness, and perhaps safety. However, as oil and gas drilling migrated south in the outlying areas east of the Denver area, possible contamination of our well became a concern.
Well or Cistern
Over the years, I have attempted to stay informed about water quality news, especially in the west. As a landowner, this information is important. I paid particular attention anytime water contamination reports would filter through the press.
Additionally, online sources contain a wealth of reliable information. For instance, in 1991, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) initiated the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program to enhance, through science, the public’s knowledge and awareness of effective methods to manage water resources and protect water quality. The long-term studies initiated by this program have produced a number of reports.
Between 1991 and 2004, the USGS assessed the water quality of over 2,000 domestic wells located in 48 states. In the summary of this assessment DeSimone, Hamilton, and Gilliom (2009) report “more than one in five (23 percent) of the sampled wells contained one or more contaminants at a concentration greater than a human-health benchmark” (p. 17).
In another study of the southwest basin-fill aquifers (California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado) found the following:
Water from about 42 percent of domestic wells and 26 percent of public-supply wells in the Southwest contained at least one contaminant at a concentration that was greater than its human-health benchmark. Arsenic, nitrate, and uranium exceeded their respective U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Maximum Contaminant Levels. (Thiros, Paul, Bexfield, & Anning, 2014, p. 2)
I didn’t consider the above information to be a water well deterrent. In fact, drilling a water well is something I want to consider, but not until later. However, many homeowners have encountered problems selling their property because of well water contamination.
I believed installing a cistern was the most expedient method to deliver water to the cabin. The installed system consisted of a 1,500-gallon concrete tank with a submersible pump, water level gauge, and a pressure tank. The electrical and 1″ water lines ran to the cabin in a 36″ deep trench. The contractor also installed a freeze-less yard hydrant and 30amp outlet.
Two methods to fill the cistern: someone delivering the water (7¢ per gallon) or filling the tank myself. To fill it myself required traveling to a water station and hauling it back with a potable water tank. A common practice in southern Colorado. There are two water stations with treated water close to the cabin. Water prices vary from 1¢ to 3¢ per gallon.
For a family of four, I don’t think a 1,500-gallon tank would be large enough. In retrospect, perhaps a 2,000-gallon tank would have been better for me. In any event, the price tag for this system was around $12,000.
Rain Water Collection: HB16-1005
Many cistern systems drain roof rainwater and snowmelt into the cistern tank. I thought about this method, but the state of Colorado has restrictions.
Colorado House Bill 16-1005, signed into law on 05/12/2016, allows homeowners to collect precipitation (rainwater or snowmelt) from residential rooftops. According to the Colorado General Assembly website, the requirements are as follows:
- A maximum of 2 rain barrels with a combined storage capacity of 110 gallons or less are used;
- Precipitation is collected from the rooftop of a building that is used primarily as a single-family residence or a multi-family residence with 4 or fewer units;
- The collected precipitation is used on the residential property on which the precipitation is collected; and
- The collected precipitation is applied to outdoor purposes such as lawn irrigation and gardening. ( Bill Summary, para. 1)
When the contractor arrived to begin excavating for the cistern, he noticed my large cooler was sitting about 100 feet from my tent, on the edge of the forest. Once recovered, we saw the top was torn apart, with teeth marks penetrating the thick plastic. We could also see bear tracks in the soft dirt, so it was not difficult to surmise what destroyed it.
I’m sure he or she enjoyed the cheese, hamburger meat, and steak, but I wonder about the jalapeno franks and hot sauce. Shouldn’t bears be hibernating at this time of the year? Has global warming messed up their yearly cycle?
Colorado General Assembly, HB16-1005. (n.d.). Residential Precipitation Collection. Retrieved from https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb16-1005
DeSimone, L. A., Hamilton, P. A., & Gilliom, R. J. (2009). The quality of our nation’s waters—Quality of water from domestic wells in principal aquifers of the United States, 1991–2004—Overview of major findings. U.S. Geological Survey Circular 133: Reston, VA
Thiros, S.A., Paul, A. P., Bexfield, L. M., & Anning, D. W. (2014). The quality of our Nation’s waters—Water quality in basin-fill aquifers of the southwestern United States: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, 1993–2009. U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1358: Reston, VA