A sterna is an underground water storage system, holding up to 70 cubic metres. In the early houses there was a well inside the house with a bucket to draw the water. Later the access was outside and the bucket operated by a small motor. In most cases the sterna’s fell into disrepair once houses had access to mains water. New houses no longer built in the sterna’s, it is enormously difficult to excavate down into marble and granite foundations.
We were lucky, both our sterna’s were far greater than we needed, but they did need repairing. With extensive flat roofs, we had more than enough clean rain water. But our waste water, both grey and black, was a problem. Grey water comes from washing machines, showers and kitchen cleaning. Black water is toilet waste and water. Both run into septic tanks in the vineyards, where they are essentially lost to the subsoil. We wanted to clean the water for irrigation.
A new German system was our best option, it was the only fully biological system available and it returned water that was drinkable. We preferred to use it in the garden. And unlike mains water, which is desalinated water, it has not been cleaned with chemicals and is gentler on the soil.
The only drawback was the underground space the two main septic tanks needed to work their magic. The final hole was 3 metres deep, and 6 by 3 wide. With a concrete lid of that size we decided to create a special area in the vineyard as a yoga centre. Once shaded, it also serves as a quiet space for painting ‘au plein aire’.
We elected to keep our mains water supply, but we use very little of it, and we could easily manage without. Drinking water (potable) is available in each apartment and has been further filtered and purified.