How to Check a Water Meter for Leaks

Water meter installation in New York City

The average household in the U.S. uses about 10,000 gallons of water each month, 10 percent of which is wasted due to running toilets, drippy faucets and plumbing leaks, according to the EPA. In fact, total household water leaks waste more than one trillion gallons of water a year in this country.

Sometimes, this increase is due to a faulty meter, but the source probably has something to do with a leak in an underground water pipe between your house and the meter. It could also be originating from the sprinkler system or from a pipe underneath your house. Only an expert master plumber can detect those kinds of leaks with any certainty.

Checking Your Water Meter

If you want to give it a shot yourself, you can start by monitoring your water meter:

  • Turn Off the Water: No water should be in use when you conduct this experiment, so make sure all water is off, such as the sprinkler system, water softener, toilets, washing machine, dishwasher, faucet, water filters and even icemakers.
  • Check Flow Indicator: Open the cover on your water meter and check for the presence of a flow indicator. It will look like a small rotating wheel, and its job is to detect the smallest amounts of water flow. If it’s moving, there’s a leak somewhere in your yard or house.

Reading a Water Meter

If there is no flow indicator present, notate the numbers appearing on the meter that follow the large rotary dial. Wait and hour and check again, making any note of changes. If you have an older water meter, you will see it has small dials for each digit, with numbers that show the unit of measure. For instance, if your dial says 9, with 100 printed near it, you would read this as 900.

Determining Leaks

Leaks may come from anywhere. Just because you know you have a leak, this doesn’t mean it tells you where it’s coming from. It could be any of the following:

  • Yard Leak: Check your yard between the meter and house on a dry day for muddy or soft spots, or any areas that are much greener than others.
  • Crawlspace Leak: Head to the crawlspace and see if you can find any areas of leaks on the ground.
  • Slab Leak: Under slab leaks aren’t easy to find as the average homeowner. A plumber is the best person to detect this.

If the meter doesn’t show a leak and you’re still stumped, contact your water company so they can run a check. If a leak is present, hire a plumber to detect the source and fix it.

Contact Tidal Plumbing and Heating

If you suspect your water meter for the presence of leaks in your home, call us for a free inspection and estimate. Please contact us at 718-505-9300, email us at, or complete our easy online form.