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New Jersey’s Use of Cisterns for Sustainability

After withstanding the devastations of Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey has initiated strong efforts to implement several resiliency practices to help handle the effects of similar future events. Green infrastructure is one of these key practices. It is essential that these methods be utilized as frequently as possible to promote sound storm water management going forward.  This depends on the extent that Green Infrastructure practices are utilized. Traditional, or gray infrastructure, generally focuses on collecting rainwater and sending it downstream to ultimately be discharged into a waterway. Green infrastructure (GI), on the other hand, mimics natural processes utilizing soils and vegetation to manage rainwater where it falls. There are numerous ways in which this can be applied for an environment of sustainability.

Such as the use of cisterns. Cisterns store rooftop runoff in a storage tank placed either above or below ground. Cisterns are used for larger rooftops and can capture and store between 100 and 10,000 gallons of runoff. (Rain Barrels are used for smaller roofs and can only hold about 55 gallons.) The stored water can then be used in non-potable manners such as landscape irrigation, rinsing gardening tools and washing the car. Cisterns can also be rerouted for indoor uses such as toilet water. Cisterns can store water which reduces runoff to streams and storm sewers, particularly for small storms. A filter is used to remove any debris and pollutants from the runoff that goes through the gutter before entering the cistern. A gutter guard can also be used to reduce any leaves, dust and debris that may enter the cistern. Consideration should be taken to ensure a stable and appropriate path of water in for overflows since cisterns are not typically designed for large storm events. Underground cisterns may need special permits and the location for overflows may also need approvals.

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