Stormwater Cistern

This underground water storage tank is a long-term solution to save money and water, reduce risk of basement flooding, and contribute to the health of our Great Lakes waterways.

SunPart ShadeShade












Sun, Part Shade, Shade

The Stormwater Cistern offers Detroiters a moderately “off-the-grid” solution to stormwater collection, management, and reuse.

Stormwater collected in the cistern is suitable for any household, business, or outdoor use where potable (drinkable) water is not required, for example irrigation and car washing.

This lot design enables households and businesses to take initiative and participate in water conservation activities on their own lot.

Ideal Location: Residential lot in full sun to shade.


The estimated cost of the Stormwater Cistern high and based on utilizing professional labor. The Field Guide recommends hiring a professional for lot preparation and installation, as the size and scale of the cistern will depend on the individual resident’s stormwater catchment area. The cost of permitting is considered as part of the overall cost of this lot design.

Green Infrastructure

By withholding smaller amounts of water at a time, water stored in cisterns and barrels keeps more water in the natural water cycle and increases the groundwater supply. This is lot design is relevant for every Detroit neighborhood.

Vegetation and Visibility

This high visibility lot design preserves clear viewsheds from the street to the alley. The action is below the surface—anything can happen on top!

Planting Type

Most Interesting Season

Other Consideration


The Field Guide recommends hiring a professional to build this project. Please see the Construction Package for a more detailed description of this lot design. Hiring a professional will ensure the cistern is correctly engineered for your exact location, as well as your intended future water usage.

Build Time Estimate

Installation is dependent upon the hired professional. Ask for an estimated schedule before starting work.

Build Difficulty

Number of People Needed

Neighbor Labor

Time Taken to Build

Build Season

Transportation Intensity

Permit Requirements

Other Build Considerations


Maintenance of the Stormwater Cistern is dependent upon the complexity of the system you choose. The City of Detroit requires that all rain barrels and cisterns installed include a filtering system. The Field Guide recommends a UV sanitizer over the bacteria based management systems. All cisterns will require monitoring to ensure no sediment or bacteria is contaminating the cistern.

Seasonal Upkeep Levels

  • Spring: Medium
  • Summer: Low
  • Fall: Medium
  • Winter: Low

Upkeep Frequency

Upkeep Skill Levels

Professional Assistance

Special Tools