Why is this picture important in understanding moisture in buildings?

I never tied it together

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Randy-----------I'll bite----It appears this is an older home from the siding. The cistern appears to have the drainage lines plugged by roots and the snake is being used to clean the blockage. With the underground drainage blocked the water is being distributed along the foundation. Drainage is most likely red clay bell tiles that are cracked and broken letting roots establish themselves.

Ed you nailed it. while the roots weren't enough to cause a backup it slowed the flow of water enough to seep into the ground at each joint in the tiles which are grouted with mortar that is not waterproof. Tiny feeler roots will get access to the water and continue to grow as long as there is water in the line. Even with out broken tiles roots will find a way in because of settling and ground movement (freeze and thaw) Dead on Diagnosis

It's very cool to see a photo of an actual cistern! Would love to have one of these at home, collecting rain from my roof. But they're only employed in arid places like Bermuda, and the Virgin Islands. The maintenance should be minimal, especially if you pay attention to it. we scored 65 inches of rain last year, so cisterns in SE Pennsy are unthinkable!

Don't be too sure of that. I have seen massive cisterns in older farmhouses in south central NY. Frequently they are 4 to 6 ft across and more than 4 ft deep, located in the basement or a crawl space, and have no top. Solar blankets for pools come in handy.

Hmmm- could the reason for that be that wells were difficult to dig back in the day? Maybe due to very rocky geography? And possibly a long way to dig to get to the water?

I've got to agree with Pat. I'm in Cent./Southern Ohio and older homes almost all have or had cisterns. Most were to collect rainwater from roofs and originally had a hand pump to draw directly from. Later on an elec. pump was installed to feed the house. As things progressed it was not to uncommon to see three spickots at sinks.

Two were for city water and the third still was used for the free water from the cistern.

Guess they were subject to drought back then! Here's one for you:

i had the honor of helping a friend jackhammer a cistern into a cottage he had on the banks of the Susquehanna in Hallstead, PA 'back in the day.'  Around 1980 to be exact.  he did just as you suspect, could not afford to drill a well, inherited the house, had a kid and a wife and no where else to live, so, we jack hammered out a hole in the bedrock 4 ft square and 6 ft deep. hit a spring 2 ft down, and several more the deeper we went, but all ran slow.  2 days after we sent the jack hammer back the well was full, and has been ever since.   my ears still ring. 

I recognize this is an OLD OLD post,  but there are additional reasons for using cisterns -- even in the rainy Seattle area.

1.  Landscape watering - during the dry summer season... seems real crazy but we've had water rationing during the summer time.  It's pretty easy to feel up a cistern that is only used for drip water of the landscape plants..

2.  As a means to manage storm water run off,  our sewer and storm water bill is about $60 month, the water bill is $30 month.  One of the reasons for the sewer/storm water being higher is the size of the treatment plants that must be built to handle the peak water run off.  If the city/county pioneers had been more careful in their thinking 100 years ago - perhaps the treatment plants would have been half the size.

3.  Use the water for toilets,  cooling, etc.    ( http://www.bullitcenter.orghttp://z-home.org/ )

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