Know Your Water Bill & Meter

One of the keys to managing your water use is to understand how much water you are actually using. Here's how to read your water bill, and information on checking your water meter (useful for verifying your bill and checking for leaks).

How To Read Your Water Bill

The following graph is a typical representation of a typical billing statement, which shows common items in you would find on you monthly or bi-monthly water statement. Typically, further explanation of specific items on your water bill can be found on the back of the water bill statement or on additional forms included with your water bill statement. For additional help with managing your irrigation water usage, contact your local certified water manager.

  1. Billing information such as account number, service address, billing service period and due date.
  2. Current account activity such as payments, adjustments, previous balance and total amount due. You will also see usage charges, fixed charges, flat fee rates and tiered rates for water districts with tiered rate structures.
  3. Meter information such as meter read dates, meter reads, number of units (in hundred cubic feet (ccf) or (hcf) 1 ccf, hcf=748 gallons). In some cases, usage charges will be in this section. Flat rate customers will only see their square footage charge.
  4. Special Message: Important information that may be of concern to you.
  5. For meter customers: consumption graph shows 12-month graphical representation of water consumption.
  6. Payment coupon to be returned with your payment.

Note the difference before and after a certified water manager was involved!

How To Read Your Water Meter

Verifying your water bill is as easy as checking your water meter. Here's how to read a typical home water meter.

Courtesy of Contra Costa Water District

Locate Your Water Meter

Locate the water meter on your property. It's usually located in a concrete box near the street, and clearly labeled. Note: Be very careful when removing your meter box lid. Use two large screwdrivers — one to stick in the hole and one to pry up the outer edge. Lift the lid just enough to slide it over to the side with your foot. Replace the lid by sliding it back into place.

Be careful not to drop the lid on the meter!

Dedicated Meter
Mixed-Use Meter

Anatomy of the Water Meter

Dial: the dial will rotate when water passes through the meter. One full rotation of the dial equals 1 cubic foot of water or 7.48 gallons.

Low Flow Indicator: the Low Flow Indicator will rotate with very little water movement. Any water moving through the meter is detected so even small leaks will register.

Odometer: the odometer records total water use in a similar way as the odometer in your car records miles driven. The water meter odometer records water use in cubic feet and displays as follows: The digits from right to left represent 1 cubic foot, 10 cubic feet, 100 cubic feet and so on. Like a car odometer, the water meter odometer can not be altered.

How to Monitor Your Water Use

The following steps will show you how to determine how much water you use over a period of time.

  1. Read the odometer and write it down completely. Then write down the date you read it. After a period of days (we suggest 7 days) read the odometer again and write it down and write down the date.
  2. Subtract the first reading from the second reading. This is your water use in cubic feet during the period.
  3. Multiply the water use by 7.48. This is your water use in gallons during the period.
  4. Divide the water use in gallons by the number of days between readings. This is your average gallons per day during the period.

How to Watch for Leaks

Turn off all water indoors and outdoors including sprinklers, ice maker, etc… If the low flow indicator moves, this may indicate a leak in an appliance or pipe. If the meter shows no obvious movement, note the reading on the meter and return in 4 hours to see if there is any change. Note: if you use water during that time, the meter reading will change.

Water meters measure cubic feet of water used. To convert cubic feet to gallons, multiply the number of cubic feet by 7.48.

For more in depth information or see sample water calculation worksheets on Contra Costa Water District's Water Conservation website.