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How to Read Your Water Meter

The large sweep hand on the dial measures water in gallons. When one gallon of water passes through the water meter, the hand moves from one number to the next.  A complete rotation of the hand equals 10 gallons.  Your meter will have a low-flow indicator that may be a circle or a triangle that turns when water is moving through the water meter. In this picture, the sweep hand is between the 6 and 7. If you are reading your meter to look for a leak, you would replace the zero with the 6.5. Second South Cheatham reads to the hundredth for billing purposes.

Image of a Water Meter

How to Detect a Leak

Do not use water or operate any water using devices in or around your home during your leak detection test.

  1. Examine the sweep hand. If it is moving, you have a continuous leak.

  2. Examine the low flow indicator. If it is moving, you have a continuous leak.


How to Detect the Location of Leaks

Here are a couple of methods you can use to find your leak.

Isolation Method:

The Isolation Method works by isolating different sections of the plumbing in and around your home. If you detected a leak, you may wish to use this method to find ongoing, hard to find leaks. In this method, you will need to turn water supply valves “off” to prevent water from flowing into water supply pipes.  If you are not comfortable with turning valves on and off, then you will need to do the visual inspection method.

During the Isolation Method, do not use any water using devices in or around your home.  You will want to check your service water line first.  Find your house main shut off valve and turn it to the off position. (NOT THE ONE AT THE METER) CAUTION! SHUT-OFF VALVES MAY FAIL OR BREAK IF THEY ARE OLD OR CORRODED. YOU SHOULD ONLY TURN SHUT OFF VALVES BY HAND. No areas in your house should have water at this point. You can check by turning on one of your faucets.  Look at your meter and see if the sweep hand or the low flow indicator are moving. If either of them is moving, you have a leak in the water line. If they are not moving, then your service line is not leaking, and the leak is in your house. To continue looking for a leak in your house, you will need to turn the water supply line back on. You can isolate water using devices that have a shut-off valve. Examples of these are: Clothes washers, humidifiers, icemakers, water heaters, toilets, and water softeners.  Each time you turn off water from one of these devices, you will need to check your meter to see if it has stopped moving. Once it stops moving, you have discovered your leak.


Visual Inspection Method:

Toilet leaks are the most common leak found inside the home. This kind of leak can be silent and may go unnoticed.  You can perform a simple toilet die test to help determine if you have a leaking toilet. First you will remove the tank lid. Place a few drops of food coloring in the tank.  Wait about 15 minutes. (Do not use or flush the toilet during this time) If you see the color in the toilet bowl, you have a leak.

If you have a toilet leak, check your overflow tube. Water should be about a half inch below the top of the tube. Lift the chain, it should not catch on to anything. Ensure the flapper is seated properly. Flush the handle and make sure it functions properly.

You can also visually check for dripping sinks, bathtub faucets and showerheads. Worn out washers can cause these leaks. You will also want to check for wet spots under sinks.

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