DIY / Water

How To Build a Rain Gauge

Measure the amount of rain you can collect using a rain gauge.

How To Build a Rain Gauge
Scott Sporleder, Photographer

Build your own and record average rainfall in your community!

How much rain falls on your head in a day? In a month? In a year? One way we can find out and connect to our natural weather patterns is with a rain gauge. Making one at home is easy, and nearly free! Once in place, use your rain gauge to discover how much rain you receive. With this information, you’ll have a better understanding of how much rain you could potentially harvest if you install a rain barrel. Whether it’s 5 inches or 50 inches, every drop counts when saving precious water from becoming polluted runoff!

You measured 1 inch of rain in a week – big deal? When every drop counts, it is indeed! Using a rain barrel, that 1 inch of rain falling on your average 3000 sq ft roof will save over 1800 gallons. If 2 of your neighbors installed a rain barrel, that’s over 5,400 gallons or 1/3 of your backyard swimming pool, to be used for growing veggies instead of becoming polluted runoff. Wow, I guess 1 inch is a big deal after all.

Materials needed:
  • 1 Liter bottle
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pen or marker
  • Journal or iPhone app (for recording rainfall)
Instructions:
  1. Using a plastic disposable water bottle you can make a simple rain gauge. It costs almost nothing!
  2. 1-liter plastic water bottle. With a sharp knife, cut it’s neck on the cylindrical part.
  3. Invert the top to make a funnel. This funnel will prevent evaporation of water.
  4. Using your ruler and pen, place a mark every 1/2 inch on the bottle. These will allow you to measure how much rain you received.
  5. An empty plastic bottle, being light, will fall down or fly away in the slightest breeze. Dig a hole and bury the lower end of the bottle in the ground. This will anchor the bottle in place.
  6. After it rains, head outside and check your gauge! Record your results.