What is a cistern?
A cistern is a tank used to store rain water, usually for
drinking purposes. Cisterns have been used for thousands of years by
people living in places where fresh water is hard to find. The
Bible mentions cisterns in Proverbs 5:15,
"Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well."
Prior to the advent of the public water system on Hatteras Island in the
1970's, almost all houses in the village depended on cisterns for fresh
Below is an example of a round wooden cistern built next to
the Nelson Stowe house in Hatteras Village. The photo below was taken in 1946. Notice the downspout
leading down from the gutter to the cistern. This cistern was probably elevated so
gravity could be used to move the water from the cistern to the house.