Water meters record your home's water usage for a given period in gallons or cubic feet, depending on the utility agency's preference. This meter contains a round gauge with numbers that resemble an odometer on a car, or it may be digital, which allows the water agency to remotely read the meter. In most cases, the water meter is located on or near the main water shut-off valve for your home.
Walk out the front door of your home. Look for the front-most hose bib on the exterior of your home and walk toward the street, canvassing the front yard for an area that is flat and has an iron, cement or plastic lid in a concrete box flush with the ground; it may be overgrown with grass or other plant life. Insert a tool into the hole or lift the handle that allows you to raise the lid safely and view the meter.
Look for the main water supply line on the exterior front or sides of your home if you do not find a box in the ground. Examine the area where other utilities enter the home. Check for a water supply line -- larger than a gas line -- that comes up from the ground and goes into the house.
Step onto the sidewalk or street. Some water utility companies install the water meter inside a pit or box flush with the ground near the home's property line in the public right-of-way area -- in the street or in the sidewalk in front of your home. Look for a cement or iron lid you lift up to access the water meter.
Check for the water-main shut-off valve inside your home in the basement or garage to locate the water meter if you haven't found it outside and live in a region where bad weather can freeze water pipes.
The main water line is a typical location where you might find the meter. It may be inside a box that requires you to open it or it may just sit atop the water pipe that enters the home. If there is a box, lift the handle to open the box. If your home has natural-gas service, the water meter could be adjacent to the gas meter, with a similar round face and gauge.
Some meters installed inside the home have an exterior device that allows the utility worker to access its information outside the home; otherwise, the meter reader periodically must come inside the home to read the meter.
Read the water meter from left to right, much the same way as you read an odometer in your car.
When your bill is high but your water usage is average to low, this may indicate a leak inside the home.
Use caution when opening up the water meter as it can be a haven for spiders and bugs.
Do not partially shut down the main water valve at the meter to control water usage in the home. The valve must remain all the way open when using water in the home for the meter to function correctly.
Add insulation to the water meter if it is outside to keep it from freezing during cold weather.
- H2Ouse: How to Read Your Water Meter
- City of Inkster, Michigan: FAQ's About Your Water Meter
- San Antonio Water System: Reading Your Water Meter
- Portland Water Bureau: Your Water Meter
- American Water: Understanding Your Water Meter
- American Water: Gauging Water Use
- Portland Water Bureau: It's That Time of Year Again
- Portland Water District: How Can I Avoid Frozen Meters and Pipes?
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.