How to read your water meter

How to read your water meter

Water meters are probably the most misunderstood pieces of equipment in The Woodlands. Learning how to read your water meter can become a useful tool in managing your water use – and that can put more money in your pocket.

The meter measures how much water is delivered to your property and can help residents discover leaks and other water use.

How to find a meter

Meter boxes are located on the front property line. One meter box between two homes can share two meters, or separate meter boxes may be placed side by side.

Checking the meter

Since meter boxes are set into the ground, silt may have accumulated around the meter itself. There may also be debris, like leaves, inside the box. You will probably need a long screwdriver (to pop the lid cover off), and a wet rag (to clean the meter dial). Be careful of critters that may have taken up lodging inside the meter box. The water meter is the big bronze thing in the middle of the box. It may have a black hinged cover.

Flip open the cover. Find the large red sweep hand. This tells the number of gallons of water running through the meter.  When the sweep hand hits “1,” one gallon has run through the meter. When the sweep hand makes one full circle, 10 gallons have passed through the meter. This is only for 5/8 inch meters. Larger meters are different.

A small red triangle sits to the left of the sweep hand. If the triangle is moving, but the sweep hand is still, a small bit of water is still flowing into the property. That could mean you have a leak somewhere.

There is also an odometer-like display on the meter. The fixed number on the meter is a “0.” This is a place holder.  The number describes the total amount of water used since the meter was installed. For instance, if the meter reads “159325,” (remember to add the zero at the end)  then 1,593,250 gallons have flowed through the meter.

Meter flow check

Next, turn off everything that uses water in the home. This includes faucets, dishwashers, water treatment systems and irrigation sprinklers. Double check outdoor spigots and shower heads. Check under kitchen and bathroom sinks for leaks. Do not use any water during this check.

Record the number on the “odometer.” Wait 20 minutes. Record the numbers again. Subtract the first number from the second. If you get a zero, you’re in great shape. However, if you get a zero and the small red triangle is still moving, you are using a small amount of water somewhere on the property. If could be a leaking faucet or a running toilet. It could be a leak somewhere else that is not obvious. Remember, even the smallest amount of water use, say from a dripping faucet, can use up to 5,000 gallons a month.

Sometimes, the meter box may be filled with water. To solve this problem and make an accurate reading, meter readers use a long tube of clear plastic with a clear plastic bottom.  They put the scope right against the meter face. Homeowners can use the same technique to read their own meter. Simply take a clear tumbler and place the bottom on the meter. Look through the mouth of the tumbler. This will allow you to see the meter face clearly.

Who is responsible?

Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their systems from the water meter to the house, and of course, inside the house.

A vital resource

Safe drinking water is a vital resource, with finite availability. The Woodlands is being used by the rest of the state as an example of water conservation, and for the most part, residents of The Woodlands have been proactive in supporting water conservation efforts.