Read Water Meter

You should know where your water meter is and how to read it.

Video: How Your Water Meter Works

Hi, my name is Dan Baker, I'm the utility crew supervisor for the valve and meter section here at Helix Water District.

We follow the American Water Works Association guidelines for water meters. Accuracy is measured across three different flows and can fall within one and a half % of a hundred. Every meter we purchase is tested and certified by the manufacturer. They add a sticker on the meter here to show their test results. When the meters arrive at the meter shop, we grab a sample of those and test them on our own bench to verify their results. One of the tests we do is a high flow test. We flow 10 cubic feet of water through the meter at 25 gallons per minute to measure accuracy. We compare the read on the meter to the measured volume in the tank. In addition to the high flow rate test, we also do a medium flow rate test and a low flow rate test. For the low flow rate, we run water through the meter at a half a gallon per minute and we fill the tank up to one cubic foot. We then compare the reads for accuracy.

One full cubic foot of water that flows through the meter should look like one full revolution of the sweep hand on the face of the meter. For residential meters, we mostly use a positive displacement meter like this one. There's a chamber inside the meter that's split by a disc. The disc has to rotate in order for the meter to register. In order for the disc to rotate, water has to pass through it. Meters like this have been around for more than 100 years. What has changed on this meter is the register type. The registers have become much smaller, compact, easier to read and some are even digital. 

As the meter ages, it actually benefits the customer. What happens is the seal in the disc between the disc and the chamber wears out so more water passes through than actually gets registered. [Music] We actually replace 3,000 meters a year. That's our target goal for a 20-year meter replacement cycle. [Music] We notify the customer before we turn the water off. The whole process takes about 10 minutes.

Our meter readers read the meter in the field every two months. They enter the read into a handheld device. Our handheld device alerts the reader if the read is out of normal range for that property and forces them to re-enter their reading. Once we upload the reading, we have software that identifies high and low consumption. Our customer service team reviews these readings based on historical consumption. If there is a high or low reading, we physically send a different meter reader back out to verify the reading. 

If you still have concerns about your meter, you can request to have the meter retested. Since we already have test results for all the meters, we ask that customers pay for the retest up front. We'll be happy to meet you at the site where we remove the meter. You're welcome to follow us back here to the meter shop and witness the entire test process. If there's still an issue with the meter, we'll refund the fee and replace the meter at no cost.

Give us a call. We can assist you. We can verify the read. If it's correct, we can troubleshoot some causes of the high use or we can provide you with a free water use evaluation. Two of the most common reasons for high bills for our customers are leaks and irrigation issues. One of the most common leaks is a toilet leak. A toilet leak can send hundreds of gallons of water down the drain every day. Using your meter is a great tool for tracking high use and looking for leaks. The first thing you want to do is make sure nothing is using water in your home, then head out to the meter. The blue dial on your water meter detects very small flows and can tell you if you have a leak.

Video: How to Read Your Meter

Hi, I’m Michelle Curtis, a member of the public affairs team at Helix Water District. The district reads customers’ water meters every two months for billing, but you can read your meter anytime to monitor your own water use. The water meter is typically located in front of your property, in the ground, near the sidewalk or the street in a concrete box. 

The meter box has a white concrete or metal lid and is usually marked water. Look for spiders, rodents, and snakes before you put your hand in the box. The meter’s hinge lid is marked with your meter number, which you will also find on your water bill. Flip open the meter’s hinge lid and wipe off the face to see the display. 

Your water meter registers water flow the same way a vehicle’s odometer registers mileage. One revolution of the meter’s red sweep hand is equal to one cubic foot of water use or 7.48 gallons. One hundred revolutions or 748 gallons is one billing unit of water. When we read your meter, we record the numbers on the white background, these are whole units.

To calculate your water usage and subtract the current meter read from the previous meter read, which can be found on your water bill. To calculate your average daily water use, simply divide your water usage by the number of days since the last read, which can be found on your water bill, as well. And don’t forget to replace the lid when you’re done. For more tips and videos, View Helix District Water

Use Your Meter to Check for Leaks

Leaks in your home or your irrigation system leads to higher bills. We recommend checking for leaks on a regular basis and your water will help you.

Smart leak detectors, or flow monitoring devices, sync with your smartphone and alert you when there is high water consumption or continuous water flow on your property. These are both indicators of a water leak, and these devices are the best protection available against undiscovered leaks running up your water bill.

There are two types of devices
External devices strap on to your water meter with velcro or zip ties, but cannot shut your water off when a large leak occurs. Inline devices automatically shut off your water when they detect a leak, but they cost more, and you need a plumber to install one.

Where to install it
If you have an irrigation system, we recommend installing your smart leak detector at your water meter or on your water service line before the point where your irrigation line takes off. This way, your device can measure how much water you use for irrigation and alert you to faulty irrigation programming, broken sprinklers or a hose that was not turned off. 

Flow Sensor Diagram

We offer a rebate!
Get a Rebate on a Smart Leak Detector

Some Helix customers have a digital display on their water meters. These displays rotate automatically through their screens and they help you detect a leak. They also display helpful icons -- a checkmark in a circle means the meter is operating correctly.

  • A faucet and water drop means the meter detected 24 hours of continuous water flow -- which is likely a leak or a hose left running. Find and stop the leak.
  • If you see any of the following icons, please call customer service at 619-466-0585: an exclamation point in a triangle means the meter is not operating correctly; a faucet with an x means the meter is not measuring water flow; a low battery icon means it is time to replace the battery.

Screen A shows your water consumption
The underlined digits show your water use in units. The photo below shows 23 units of water use. One unit equals 100 cubic feet of water, which is 748 gallons. After 45 seconds, the consumption view shows additional digits. If water is flowing through the meter - animated line segments appear. If you are not using water, the animated line segments may indicate a water leak on your property.

Digital Meter Display Units Used

Screen B shows your flow rate
This screen shows how much water is flowing through the meter in gallons per minute (GPM). Here are some common flow rates for reference:

  • 0.01 to 0.05 GPM / dribbling hose bib or leaking toilet
  • 2.5 to 3.0 GPM / faucet
  • 2.0 to 5.0 GPM / shower
  • 4.0 to 5.0 GPM / washing machine
  • 2.0 to 2.5 GPM / one sprinkler head

Digital Meter Display Flow Rate

How to Turn Off Water to Your Property

If you have a leak that's flooding your home or landscape, stop it by turning off the water to your property. Use the customer valve in your meter box. The metal valve handle is on the house side of the meter. To turn off your water, slowly turn the handle clockwise a quarter turn until it is perpendicular to the water pipe. We recommend turning your valve off for a few seconds twice a year to ensure that it works.

Turn Off Valve

Video: How to use your water shut off valve

  1. Video transcript: How to use your water shut off valve

Hi, this is Vince Dambrose with Helix Water  District. Today, I'm going to show you how to use your water shutoff valve so that you can stop leaks, prevent damage and make repairs.  

Your shutoff valve is in your meter box.  It's typically in front of your property in the ground near the sidewalk or street  in a concrete box that is labeled "water."  

I recommend using a long screwdriver to open your meter box but you can use pliers or your finger.  

Open the water meter and clear any debris or spider webs.

The customer shutoff valve is above the meter. The valve has a lever or a wheeled handle.  

Take the handle and turn to shut off the water. Turn wheeled valves clockwise.  

When the handle stops, the water is off.

If you're unable to operate your customer valve, you may need to request your water utility to shut off your water service. If you're a Helix customer, contact us for help.

To turn the water back on, open the valve slowly until the meter stops moving. If the meter does not stop moving, you may have a leak or have something running. 

Sometimes, after a repair,  you may have air trapped in your lines. You can remove the air by opening a faucet and letting it run for a few minutes.

Well, that's it for now. Thanks for watching.  For more information, please go to