Because water in Israel is hard to come by, most ancient cities, towns, and even households used cisterns to catch and store rain runoff from rooftops, courtyards, and even streets.
Cisterns were dug by hand out of solid rock and were plastered so they would hold water. They needed constant care because the plaster tended to fall off, which allowed the precious water to leak out. When a cistern failed to hold water, it created a desperate situation for the people who depended on it.
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