How to Read a Water Meter

Knowing how to read your water meter can help you detect leaks, as well as help you monitor your household's water use on a daily or weekly basis. Most meters resemble a clock face with an inset odometer, although older models have faces with six small dials and the newest models are digital. All read water use in cubic feet. One cubic foot of water equals 7.48 gallons.

Water Faucet
credit: Stephanie DeLay/iStock/Getty Images
Water running from a faucet.

Finding the Meter

Water meters are typically located near the curb in front of your home. In some areas, particularly in cold climates, the meter may be inside your house, in the basement. Outdoor meters are protected by a concrete or metal housing with a lid.

Accessing the Meter

Often, you can remove the lid of the meter housing with a large screwdriver, but, if not, you may need a water meter key – a T-shaped tool with a slotted socket at the end, available from hardware and home-improvement stores.

Reading the Meter

A straight-reading meter, the most common kind, shows water usage in the same way your car's odometer shows gasoline usage. To figure out how much water you've used in a day, record the total from the day before and check again at the same time the next day.

Janet Bayers

Since 1981 Janet Bayers has written on travel, real estate trends and gardening for "The Oregonian" newspaper in Portland. Her work also has appeared in “Better Homes & Gardens,” “Traditional Home,” “Outdoor Living” and other shelter magazines. She holds a Master of Arts in linguistics from Michigan State University.