If you have received a water bill that’s excessively high, one of the first things you will want to do is to check your water meter to determine if you have a leak somewhere.

In this article, we’ll go over the steps of how to read your water meter and explain a little bit of what this device does and how it works.

In order for your water to flow through your pipes and into your house, it needs to go from the city’s pipe system to yours.

Your meter measures how much water has gone through that connection point in a given time period (usually 24 hours). The numbers on the dial represent gallons of water passed by that location per hour.

If you have more than one meter, they will be read separately.

About Your Water Meter

Your water meter measures how much water your household has used. It’s the tool that your water company uses to determine what your bill should be.

The water meter is a metal or plastic box that will have either a metal lid, with “Water Meter” written on it in large letters and numbers, or the word ‘meter’ stamped into one of the panels. This concrete housing unit for your home’s primary utility can usually be found close to where you leave out trash cans—either up front by the curb near street level (or if there isn’t any grass) down low at grade-level under shrubbery as seen here.

In this article we’ll go over identifying the type of water meter you have and how to read it.

Types Of Water Meters

There are two main types of water meters: the analog meter, and the digital meter. Generally speaking, if you have an older home, it is very likely that you are using an analog model; newer homes tend to be equipped with digital meters.

The analog model consists of a wheel inside the water-meter itself, which rotates as you use more (or less) water. The movement of this wheel is then translated to an amount of water used on a small meter-dial; it will typically have numbers from 0-200 written on it and has two arrows (one pointing up, one pointing down), which are used to measure the amount of water that has passed through the meter.

The other main type is the digital model, which features a small screen with numbers on it (typically from 0-9999) and two arrows, one pointing up, one pointing down. When you use more water, or less water in this case, it will register how much has passed through.

How Do You Read A Water Meter?

Reading a water meter is actually simple. Here are some pointers:

1. Locate the meter. As we mentioned earlier, it’s normally by the sidewalk in front of your home.

2. Lift up the lid of your water meter box. You can usually unscrew it with a screwdriver to get inside, but be careful that there isn’t any snakes or mice in there already!

3. Use a rag / cloth to wipe away leaves, dirt or any other debris that may be covering the face of the meter.

4. The face of the meter contains a small gear or triangle-shaped dial.

5. You’ll also notice a large sweep hand that moves slowly around the meter in a clockwise direction. This is counting gallons of water or cubic feet running through to your home.

6. If the sweep hand goes from 0 to 1 at the top of the meter, then 1 gallon or more of water has been delivered.

7. When the sweep hand is not moving much at all (but the small triangular object is), that means that there’s very little water flowing through your meter to your home.

8. The numbers on the odometer go up to the millions. So, if the number is 7138246, that means that 7,138,246 gallons or cubic feet of water has passed through this particular meter.

When the sweep hand goes a full circle around the meter – that means that 10 gallons have been used.

Use Your Water Meter To Test For Leaks

Now that you know how to read your water meter – let’s use it to check for leaks to determine if that’s the reason for your high water bills.

Turn off all your water. That means faucets, toilets, icemakers, etc.

Turn off the main water valve in your home. These are usually located in the basement or the garage.

Go check your water meter. Your dials should not be moving at all because you’ve turned everything off. But if you do see your dials moving – then you definitely have a leak somewhere.

Turn on your main water valve so that you and your family have water.

Call a professional plumber to find and fix the leak.


If you are experiencing a spike in your water bill, it could be an indication that there is a leak. This article went over the simple steps on how to read your water meter and determine if you have a leak or not.

Remember, leaks can happen anywhere from the toilet tank to outdoor faucets so don’t forget about any of these potential sources when looking for where the issue might lie.

If you have any questions about your water meter or are having some problems with it, call Atlantis Plumbing today at 770-443-8229. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.