Conserve Water With a DIY Rain Chain (with video)

I was sitting enjoying a warm downpour in my garden screened-in porch when my roof gutter gave way. It was like a dam had broken, and the water started to funnel down like an inverted geyser. I watched, as my usually thirsty plants started to look like drowned rats. The water poured down with no rhyme or reason in a steady gush. It was in that moment that I had a glimmer of recollection about ogling over rain chains that were displayed at a recent design show. These attractively designed rain chains looked something like this and this, and might just be the solution for the drainage problem.

About Rain Chains

According to Harvest H20: “Rain chains (‘Kusari doi’ in Japanese) offer a highly attractive and unique alternative to traditional downspouts. They are hung from the corners of your roof or canal to guide the flow of water into large barrels to catch the water from the roof for household purposes and gardening. They have been used for hundreds of years in Japan, and are a perfect expression of the Japanese knack for combining aesthetics and practicality.”

5 Reasons To Put Up a Rain Chain

1. Rain chains can provide a managed runoff solution that direct water away from the roof alleviating the chance for leaking, soil degradation and erosion.
2. Along with rain barrels, rain chains are an eco-minded water solution that can aid in collecting water for later household usage.
3. Rain chains provide an enjoyable tranquil water feature that can be used to enhance ponds and gardens.
4. Rain chains are low-maintenance.
5. You can make one yourself!

I’ve followed sustainable building architect, Michelle Kaufmann for a few years. She is a pioneer in the field of green building. Her statement on her blog says it all: “Sustainability isn’t just about the way we build. It is a state of mind. Good design embodies, inspires and nurtures that way of thinking and living.”

Michelle shares the inspiration (photo above) from one of her clients who “incorporated rain chains to take the rainwater from the roof and direct it down to the reflecting pools and planters, thus conserving water by not using fresh drinking water for irrigation, but rather functionally using rain water. Not only does this help reduce storm water run-off (which is increasingly becoming a problem in many jurisdictions), but it also visually celebrates the water beautifully. This move takes something that is typically seen as a problem or a challenge and makes it into an opportunity for nature as art.”

Michelle Kaufmann’s DIY Rain Chain

Photo Credit: John Swain Photography for Michelle Kaufmann Studio

65 comments

Elisa F.
Elisa F2 years ago

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Howard C.
.5 years ago

It never fails to amaze me how much I learn being part of this site! In common with a lot of gardeners I collect rain in a rain- barrel (it is empty we've only had 10% of our usual rain fall this year - the Eastern part of England is very dry anyway but this year has been awful - hardly any rain since Christmas). I use this to feed those plants that do not like the very 'hard', lots of limescale, we rely heavily on ground water, supply that normally comes from the tap. This year they are suffering, along with the rest of the garden - like all 'new' properties in the UK I pay for my water by usage (and it isn't cheap!!). A rain-chain sounds lovely but we get mosquitos (we call them midges but they still bite!!) and so rain-barrels are best covered. The very idea that anyone (even a State) can claim to 'own' the rain horrifies me (I don't mean to be offensive to those who live there) but honestly, what is next, metering the air we breath?? I can live with paying for water that has been treated (someone has to pay for it) but what falls from the skies is free for all to use as they feel appropriate.

Deborah L.
Deborah L6 years ago

John L: you need to ad a few goldfish, they will feed on the larvae. I use feeder goldfish as they are about 15 cents each and they keep my 45 gallon pond bug free.

Debra Van Way
Debra Van Way6 years ago

I bought a beautiful copper rain chain and absolutely love it. I am going to order another for the back to go above my new rain barrel. Nice to be able to add beauty to a home that also serves a useful purpose. Thank you for your article-made me aware such things existed.

Leisha A.
Leisha A6 years ago

Your right, this is functional art. I'm inspired to try this technique in a couple of places in my yard. Thanks

Ronnie Citron-Fink

Barbara, you bring up a very interesting point about the politics of who owns the water. From my research, you are correct that Colorado has laws prohibiting the collection of rain water. But, it seems the laws are changing...

"While laws about rainwater collection are often murky, Colorado's are quite clear: Homeowners do not own the rain that falls on their property. (Update: As of June 28, two new laws allow Coloradans to collect rain legally.)" -- http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/water/4314447

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Anyone else live in a place that prohibits the collection of rain water?

Cecilia G.
Cecilia G.6 years ago

Thanks for the article. Thank you for the information.

Barbara Chally
Barbara Chally6 years ago

I shared this idea among extended family members all over the country, even though I live where we have so much rain any outdoor container is always full. But three of the families live in Colorado where I'm told it's illegal to collect rain water in any form, except in extreme rural areas. No collection of rain for anything in the city! Can this possibly be true in any other state? Which ones, and why?

Denise Henderson
Denise Henderson6 years ago

If the barrels are in a shady area (and that'd be good to help with the evaporation issue) you can add a couple of goldfish from the bait shop to the barrel, along with a few floating water plants. No mosquitos- wrigglers feed the fishies. TADA

Malinda Pelkey
malinda Pelkey6 years ago

I've always wanted to do this. Thanks!