Water Meter Reading: A Complete Guide

Are you unsure how to read a water meter and need some advice on taking a water reading? Our helpful guide will help you better understand your water meter reading.


Why should you provide a water meter reading?

Regularly taking a water meter reading lets you keep an eye on how much water you're using and helps your water company provide accurate bills. Similar to submitting an electricity meter reading, there are many advantages to providing a water meter reading:

  • Ensures you are being charged the correct amount for your water usage.
  • Assists you stay within a budget.
  • Helps detect potential water leaks sooner.
  • Shows your water consumption habits.
  • Avoids disputes with your water supplier.

Where do I find my water meter?

Your water meter can either be located outdoors or indoors. If the water supply pipe is shared with other households (like in flats or apartments), the meter is most likely to be indoors. On the other hand, if the water supply pipe is not shared with other households the preference is for the water meter to be installed outdoors.

Outdoor water meter

An outdoor water meter is often situated very close to the stop valve. These are frequently found on your property close to the footpath. Keep an eye out for a small metal or plastic cover in the ground. Simply lift this cover (preferably with a tool like a screwdriver) and you should be able to see another plastic-type cover, this is there in order to protect your water meter from frost. Remove the protective covering and you will find the water meter.

Indoor water meter

indoor water meter

If you can't find a meter or plastic cover near the footpath, chances are that your meter is installed indoors. Most water suppliers will attempt to install the water meter where the water supply enters your property. This is often located under the kitchen sink or in your garage.

In most large buildings, your water meter will be in a utility room much like the one depicted to the right. To determine which water meter belongs to your home, you will have to verify the serial number on the meter and make sure it matches the number on your water bill.

What does a water meter look like?

Before you read your water meter, it is important to find out whether your water meter is a traditional water meter or a smart water meter. The UK government first introduced smart water meters back in January of 2016. Most households still use the traditional water meter. We will delve into the differences and benefits of either meter so you have the knowledge to identify what meter you have.

Traditional water meter

The vast majority of water meters in the UK are round in shape and are connected to the water mains piping. On the surface of your meter, you will notice either four or five black digits and two red digits, often accompanied by a small dial. You can find the serial number of your water meter on the outer rim of your meter. Your meter serial number should consist of nine digits.

Water meter

Smart water meter

Like traditional water meters, most smart water meters are also round in shape and slightly larger than a traditional water meter. There is a digital screen that shows multiple numbers and as many as three decimal points after a coma. The serial number of a smart water meter is located above the bar code, which can be found in the inner portion of the meter underneath the digital display.

Smart water meter

How to read a water meter

Now that you have identified what type of water meter you have, let’s have a look at how to read your water meter.

Firstly, it is important to look where your water meter is located and make sure the serial number matches the number on your water bill. Ensure that any coverings protecting the meter are open or removed, some water meters have a lid; if there is one, open it so you can see the meter face.

Since there are two types of water meters, we will look at how to read a water meter for each type. We’ll cover which numbers you read on a water meter and explain water meter dials in more detail.

How to read a traditional water meter

Your water meter should display either four or five black digits followed by two red ones. Red numbers are decimal points to your usage. Simply read the black numbers from left to right and ignore any red numbers at the end. Your water company does not require the red numbers in order to read the meter correctly.

How to read a smart water meter

You shouldn't have to read a smart water meter. The whole purpose of having a smart water meter installed is for your local water supplier to be able to obtain the water meter readings automatically making things simpler for the consumer. You may want to look at your smart water meter reading to ensure you are being billed accurately.

Much like a traditional water meter, simply read the digital numbers from left to right until the comma. You can ignore any digits after the comma.

How to submit a water meter reading

Once you have your water meter reading, you can submit the figures to your water supplier via your online account, by phone, or even by post. In order to provide a meter reading, you may need to provide the following information:

  • Your customer reference number. This is the eight or 10 digit number shown on your water bill.
  • Your payment reference number. The reference number normally consists of 13 digits and is located on your water bill.
  • Your name as it appears on your water bill.
  • Your water meter reading.

If you're not sure who your water supplier is, read our water directory guide for more in-depth information about water companies in your area.

How much will I save with a water meter?

Take a look at the following annual estimated costs with a water meter from a few common water suppliers:

Yearly estimated cost with a water meter
Scenario Four-person home* Two-person home**
Thames Water Meter £515.69 £240.35
United Utilities Water Meter £650.12 £295.71
Yorkshire Water Meter £639.67 £277.32
Dwr Cymru Welsh Water Meter £672.92 £348.47

*The four-person home scenario includes two baths per week, 24 showers per week, 10 flushes per day, three washing machine loads per week, seven dishwasher uses per week, 50 hours of garden hose use a year, include surface water charges
**The two-person home scenario includes 1 bath per week, 12 showers per week, 4 flushes per day, 2 washing machine loads per week, 4 dishwasher use per week, 0 hours of garden hose use a year, include surface water charges

You can quickly take your estimated amount, compare it with your current water bill and immediately see if having a water meter installation will bring you savings or not.

Water meter calculator

If you are curious whether you should install a water meter or not, you may want to calculate if it will bring you any savings or not.

The CCV, Voice for water consumers, is a water meter calculator that does such a calculation.

Enter the following simple details in the water meter calculator and it will give your new water bill price if you get a water meter installed. The items you need to enter are:

  1. Your water supplier.
  2. Your sewerage supplier.
  3. How many people live in the home.
  4. How many baths does your home take per week.
  5. How many showers does your home take per week.
  6. How many times do you flush the toilet per day.
  7. How many washing machine loads do you do per week.
  8. How many dishwasher loads do you do per week.
  9. How many hours do you use a garden hose in a year.

While this is not an exact science, a water meter calculator will quickly give you a good estimate of your water bill under a water meter system.

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