How to Read Your Water Meter

How to read your water meter

Your water meter measures the amount of water used in your household and the readings from the meter determine the amount of your monthly water bill. Residents are encouraged to read their own meters to verify billing and to monitor water use. A routine check of your water meter could alert you to a possible water leak, if the readings are unusually high.

Most water meters are located outside the house under a metal lid in the parking strip by the front curb or in the front yard. The two most popular types of water meters are straight reading and circular reading.

Straight Reading Meter

watermeter1In the meter shown to the right, the reading is taken from the figures shown under the words CUBIC FEET. This meter reads 81710.03, which is the total number of cubic feet of water recorded since the meter was installed. If the utility bills in units of 100 cubic feet they would read this meter as simply 817.

Circular Reading Meter

watermeter2.jpgThe circular reading meter (left) uses a series of circular dials to record cubic feet of water used. When the meter is read, only the white dials with the black letters are read to measure the number of "units" that have been used. One unit equals 100 cubic feet, or 748 gallons.

In this example, the meter reading on this meter is: 2426.92 cubic feet. This reading appears on the left side of your bill, in the box labeled "Metered Usage." If the meter reading the month prior was 20, this customer would be billed for 4 units.

Note that the size of the meter is usually printed on the dial. The meter shown in this example is a 5/8" meter.

watermeter3.gifThe triangular-shaped low flow indicator shown on the circular reading meter visibly rotates when water is going through the meter. This is an easy way to check for water leaks. If all faucets, spigots and other water consumption devices are turned off both inside and outside your home, and the low flow indicator is still rotating, you may have a water leak in your plumbing system.

How to Read a Round Meter

This meter is an older style and is much less common. However, there are still some of these meters in service. This type of meter has several small dials that are marked off in divisions of 10. The dials are read much like a clock, except that the hand on every other dial turns counterclockwise.

watermeter4To read this meter, begin with the 100,000 dial and read each dial around the meter to the one foot dial.

If the hand is between numbers, use the lower number. Therefore, the dials at right register 806323.

In addition to checking for water leaks, a routine check of your water meter can also help you determine the amount of water used by specific activities or appliances. This information is useful in helping you create a water conservation strategy, to save water and lower water bills.
To measure the amount of water used for any activity, follow these instructions:

Helpful Tip:
A "unit" shown on your water bill is equal to 100 cubic feet, or 748 gallons (one cubic foot, equals approximately 7.5 gallons). . The water meter readers only record complete units for billing purposes, so the last two digits (the "10" and the "1" figures) are omitted.

  1. Before you begin the measurement, write down the meter reading to two decimal places. Perform the activity you want to measure, but be sure that no other water is being used during the test. Some examples include:
    • Washing a load of laundry or dishes
    • Taking a shower or bath
    • Washing your car
    • Watering your lawn
    • Filling your swimming pool
  2. If you are doing an activity that may have a variable duration, such as taking a shower or running your sprinklers, you should measure the number of minutes the activity required. This information will allow you to determine the number of gallons per minute the activity requires.
  3. After the activity is complete, read the meter again. Subtract the first reading from the second reading, and then multiply the remainder by 7.48 to convert to gallons. To get gallons per minute, divide the number of gallons by the number of minutes the activity required. For example, if you ran your sprinkler system for 10 minutes and used 110 gallons of water, your system uses 11 gallons per minute.

If you suspect you have a leak, you can measure the volume!

  1. Write down the meter reading and the time of day to the minute
  2. Don't use any water during the test. Usually it is best to do this when you will be away from home for an hour or more. Make sure devices such as evaporative coolers and ice makers are turned off.
  3. Read the meter again when you return and note the time of day.
  4. Subtract the second reading from the first. Multiply the remainder by 7.48. This is the number of gallons that passed through the meter during the test period.
  5. Divide the amount of water by the number of minutes in the test. For example, if 17 gallons leaked out during a 180 minute period, you have a leak of 0.094 gallons per minute.
  6. Multiply the gallons per minute by 1,440 to calculate gallons per day. Multiply gallons per minute by 43,920 to calculate gallons per month. In this example, just 0.094 gallons per minute equates to over 4,128 gallons each month.