How to Collect Balcony Rain Water for Free




I've recently started gardening on my small balcony, finally.

It's lovely to see little green plants growing from tiny seeds and all, but sometimes I forget to water my plants because I just can't be bothered. Since there's no water source on my balcony, I have to bring water from either the kitchen or bathroom sink to the balcony, and more often than not, end up splashing water all over the living room floor and sofa.

The many other rain water collector instructables on the site are awesome and all... when you have a huge house, lawn, garden, and the works. Oh, and a bunch of tools and fancy gadgets. But, have you seen the size of the 55-gallon drums in real life? The only drums that are going to fit in my tiny NYC apartment are from Rock Band.

So, after being frustrated with the mass of plastic waste from take-out, I came up with a no-frills, primitive, and extremely easy solution to a natural water source on my balcony.

Read on!

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Step 1: Supplies

The supplies are free, because you probably have it lying around at home already. The containers are from many take-out orders of noodles and soups. If you don't have these types of quart containers, you can just use any kind of container with lids, like large yogurt tubs, old Tupperware, or even snack tubs (yes, you cheese ball snackers!).

Clean thoroughly with soap, and wait for rain. (Sorry, there are no substitutes for rain.)

You'll need:

- plastic quart containers

- plastic quart container lids

- rain

Step 2: Collection

When there's rain, line your containers underneath the points of heaviest rainfall to collect water. Since my balcony has a cover, the rain falls mostly near the railing.

Wait for your container to fill up, then cover tightly with lid. You need to cover the water because still water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. This page will explain much better than I can.

And as for algae growing in the clear plastic containers, I've been using this rain water collection for the past month and have not encountered any problems. Since my collection is at such a small quantity, I use the water relatively quickly. Also, my northern-facing balcony gets little sun, and the water is kept in the corner, so this is probably why algae doesn't pose a problem for me.

If your balcony has no sunshade covering, or receives a lot of sun, you might have to either use dark colored containers, or keep them stored under a tarp, in a storage box, or even inside your apartment.

*Note: I also lined my plastic watering can under the sunshade to collect rain water. It's great because it can hold more water, but you do need to find something to cover the opening once it's filled. Or, if you're going to able to use all the water up right away, then go ahead and leave it uncovered. Either way, I'd suggest you try to use the water from the watering can before you use the container-stored water.

Step 3: Use

Store your rain water collection in a shaded area of the balcony. I keep it near my balcony door so I can just reach out and water my plants directly without even stepping outside.

Since my little plants aren't exactly Botanical Garden sized, the water I collect in 9 containers can last me for at least 2 weeks. If you have more/larger plants, you might have to eat take-out more often to collect even more rain water.

I hope you find this Instructable useful and start using that balcony of yours, no matter how big or little it is!

Happy collecting and gardening!

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    17 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I think your ideas are great !! thank you and i was wondering what the white looking residue was on my leaves now i know what to do THANK YOU VERY MUCH (:


    3 years ago

    These freebie ideas are ridiculous and cheesy. If you display too much more of this type of thing, I think that I will have to unsubscribe. Nothing is free. Everything takes time and time is money to the working man.

    1 reply

    Question 1 year ago on Step 3

    does the shoestring watering method really work ?


    2 years ago


Pots along edge of balcony is great idea ~ hooking un-used 'window box' to horizontal balcony rail when raining (and pouring into tub when rain stops) would do same thing.


    8 years ago on Step 2

    You could attach chains to the metal with magnets and then have that chain lead into a bucket: any water that would normally drip from the corrugated roof would slip down the chain and into the bucket. You could even reduce the chance of mosquitoes by getting a bucket with a lid, drilling a hole in the lid, and securing the chain to the bottom of a small screen, tea strainer, or what have you placed in the hole so that the water would filter through into the bucket, but mosquitoes would be unable to lay their eggs in the collected water.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 2

    Thanks for the tip! I'll definitely keep it in mind next time I go browsing in the hardware store.

    Most balconies here in Germany either have a drain pipe or a rain chain. You might tap into any of these, provided your landlord agrees. You might want to speak to your neighbours downstairs, though, in case they do the same and you take the water they might see as "theirs". A rain chain or little gutter for the rainwater is a good idea if you want to use only one container, you can use it to direct the water from several sources (your first small picture) to one large container. The correct angle or bend is a matter of trial and error, I'm afraid. If it's too sharp, the water will drip from the chain right on to the ground, if it's just a slight angle, it will follow the lead to the container. So, you might want to install one diagonally from the farthest drip point (upper starting point) to the cointainer (lower ending point), catching all the other drips in between at various heights. If all drip points are in a straight line (upper storey balcony liner), this should be quite easy. It will look a bit strange running through your balcony view, though... Just a thought! Good instructable for city gardening!

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the kind message!

    Unfortunately, most NYC apt balconies don't have drain pipes or rain chains. And, like I said in my instructable, I'm mostly a novice gardener, so my primitive method is fine for the moment.

    But I appreciate your awesome tips!! I'll look around to see if I can find some cords or chains to upcycle for the rain chain you suggested.

    Thanks again!

    atykfang-diy hobbyist

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Which plant / photo ? This plant in the white/blue pot might or might not be dahlia flowers. You can read the little note embedded in the photo. (3rd pic in Step 1)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice and Simple! I would also have a Large covered drum to store all these water and reusing these containers. No automated thingy required to do that.