Introduction: How to Check a Water Meter for a Leak

About: Owner of company that sells metering, water leak detection, underground pipe locators, and GIS mapping systems.

This is how you use your water meter leak indicator to see if you have a small leak inside your home or past the water meter.

Step 1: Make Sure ALL Water Using Devices in Your House Are OFF

  • Faucets
  • Toilets
  • Outside hoses and sprinkler systems
  • Water softeners
  • Washing machines and dishwashers
  • HVAC humidifiers
  • refrigerator ice makers

When absolutely sure nothing is using water go the next step.

Step 2: Find Your Water Meter

Inside Meter

Your water meter could be inside your house in the basement, utility room, or garage.

Outside Meter

If you meter is outside, it is likely in an underground meter box with an iron or plastic lid, often labeled "Water" or "Water Meter", but sometimes not. The lid may be rectangular or round. It may have a Pentagon (5 sided) brass nut locking it closed. The brass nut is soft, so don't damage it with a regular wrench, pliers, or vice grip. You can use pliers or vice grips, but wrap it with duct tape, cardboard, or a cloth to keep the tool from damaging the nut.

Once you have found your meter, open the top lid if it has one and look at the register face. if in a pit, you may need to clean it first.

Next Step

Step 3: Find the Leak Indicator

On almost every meter, there is a "LEAK INDICATOR" it will be a small dial that moves with even the smallest of water flow. It is sometimes in the center of the sweep hand, or it may be off to the side. On electronic registers, it may be a flashing dot, animated icon, or something else that moves or blinks. With small leaks, you will not likely see movement of the odometer wheel, or a sweep hand. Think of it like a clock. The odometer is the hours, the sweep hand is the minutes, and the leak indicator is the seconds. The only one you will see moving on small leaks is the leak indicator.

Watch the leak indicator, leak detector closely. If it is totally still, you don't likely have a leak on the downstream site of the meter. If it is moving, you likely have a leak.

If you are not sure if you are looking at the leak indicator and nothing is moving, have someone turn on a faucet to see the difference.

Note: Most mechanical meters will not register water use below 1/8 to 1/16 gallon per minute. It is possible to have a small drip leak that is not measured by the meter. In this case, it is not a problem of being billed for it, but a problem of slow water damage. Solid state digital meters may measure down to as low as 0.01 gallon per minute.