In both ancient and modern times water was a precious commodity in the Middle East. Villages and cities were built near springs where possible, but in other cases wells were dug AND, from about 1200 B.C. to the present day, plastered cisterns collected the precious rainwater during the winter months.
Cisterns are cavities that are hewn out of the rock, or soil, and are lined with plaster so as to be able to store water. In the Middle East, the runoff from the winter rains filled them, and the stored water was used throughout the year.
In the cistern from Ashqelon, note the remnant of the small opening at the top, through which a container was lowered into the cistern to draw water.
View of the opening into a cistern. The man in the image is leaning against the large stone that covers the cistern. The square opening on the top is normally covered by the metal hatch that is leaning against the left side of the covering rock.
During the winter rains, water was diverted from the hillside into the cistern. The hill actually slopes from upper left to lower right and a variety of carved channels diverted water into the cistern. Note also, that debris, including animal droppings, were washed into the cistern along with the runoff water.
A bucket, tied to a rope, was lowered into the cistern and water was drawn up.
Question: which type of water would you prefer to drink? Cistern? Well? Spring (= living water)? See Jeremiah 2:13 and John 4:4-24.