Cisterns need help in drought

August 09, 1999|By ERIN HEATH

In Waynesboro, plants aren't the only things that need rain to stay healthy. People who have cisterns also rely on rain to provide water for everyday uses, including taking showers, flushing toilets and washing clothes.

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A cistern is a large holding tank for potable water, usually made of concrete and placed underground, that is designed to catch and filter rainwater so it can be used in the home.

Despite the recent lack of rainfall, hundreds of cisterns are still in use in Franklin County, according to David Harris, owner of H.H.C. Cistern Cleaning. Harris said his business has doubled its normal amount of customers since water levels began to drop.

A cistern "is like a giant concrete room," he said. "They usually hold from 2,000 to 15,000 gallons ... about a month to three-month supply of water."


When water levels are low, cistern owners can get their tank filled with city water delivered by a water hauling company.

That's just what Dorothy Bryan did to maintain her water supply during the drought. Bryan moved to Waynesboro in 1996 from New York City, where she said she always used city water.

Bryan said she had never heard of a cistern before leaving the city, when she discovered that her new house had two of them.

"Coming from New York I never had to think about running out of water," she said.

For the water hauling business, the drought is both a blessing and a curse.

Tom Grosh, owner of Valley View Water Service in Waynesboro, said his business usually hauls 1,500 loads of water in a summer, with one or sometimes two 2,000- to 2,800-gallon loads going to each customer.

But this year, Grosh said Valley View has delivered about 2,000 loads of water in just June and July. By the end of August, Grosh's business could reach twice the amount of orders it gets in a normal summer.

"We've been in business about 17 years and I've never seen it this dry," he said.

Although the drought may be prompting more cistern owners to call water hauling companies, Grosh said he still has reasons for concern.

Valley View gets its water from three cities: Waynesboro, Mont Alto and State Line, Grosh said. If those cities start feeling a strain on their water supplies, Grosh said they will set a limit on how much water the business can take, which will force Grosh to set limits for his customers as well.

Mandatory restrictions on nonessential water use in Pennsylvania have also hurt Grosh's business, he said.

"Right now we're not filling pools or topping them off. That normally is a big part of our business," he explained.

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