How to take a water meter reading

Old style mechanical water meter

To keep your bills accurate, it’s worth sending regular water meter readings. But where is your water meter, and how do you read it?

If your home has one, you should read your water meter read at least annually. And your water supplier should take their own reading at least every two years. But to be sure of accurate billing, you may want to read it more frequently.

And while customers without a water meter pay an unmeasured charge, it’s possible to get estimated bills even if you have a meter. As such, it’s a good idea to take regular water meter readings to ensure they’re on the right track. There’s no sense in splashing out money that you don’t need to.

But how do you read a water meter? Whether it’s an older analogue meter, a digital or a Sensus water meter, here’s how to track your usage.

Struggling to pay your water bill? Find out how to get help with your water bill. And to find out how much you should be paying, find out the average water bill cost in the UK.

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Where’s my water meter?

Your water supplier should be able to tell you exactly where your water meter is. But if you’re up for a treasure hunt, there are a few rules of thumb to follow in order to find it.

If your water meter is inside

If the water meter’s inside your home, it tends to be close to where the water pipe enters your property. If you know where your stop tap is, it’s likely to be near there. The usual suspects include the cupboard beneath your kitchen sink, or in your downstairs bathroom.

If your water meter is outside

Outside water meters are usually found near the property boundary. Again, if you know where your stop tap is, you’re probably not far away.

Outside meters tend to be underground, so you’re looking for a metal (or sometimes plastic) cover, square or circular in shape, which may have ‘WATER’ or ‘BB’ marked on it. This could be on your drive, in your garden, or on the pavement just outside your home.

Water meter cover

If you live in flats, it’s likely to be a longer rectangular cover, as there will be a number of meters. Your flat number should hopefully be marked. But if it isn’t, you should be able to match your meter’s serial number to that on your bill.

If you can’t open the cover easily, you may have to prise it open using something like a flathead screwdriver. There may also be a foam or polystyrene frost plug underneath, so remove this to reveal your meter. Don’t forget to replace this and close the cover when you’ve taken your reading.

Taking the water meter reading

Whether you have a digital water meter or on older-style mechanical meter, the principle of reading it is basically the same.

The numbers of the left-hand side represent the amount of water used in cubic metres (m3), which is 1,000 litres. This is the number you want to read, as it’s what your water supplier will bill you on, subtracting the number from your previous reading. The numbers on the right represent litres of water, and can be ignored for billing purposes.

On an older analogue meter with dials, the numbers you want are in black, so don’t worry about the red ones afterwards.

Water meter

On digital meters, there may be two rows of numbers, with the more prominent ones on the top. These are the numbers you want to take. Where there’s just one row of digital numbers, such as on Sensus meters, you can safely ignore the numbers to the right of the decimal point.

Digital meter

Some meters may have a radio device covering them. This is so your supplier’s water reader can take your reading with a handheld device, without actually having to access the dials. The dials may be obscured by this, but you should be able to read them by opening the plastic flap. 

When you have your water meter reading, the easiest way to submit it is via your supplier’s website, in your account. If you don’t have one and need to register, you’ll need your customer number, which will be on top of your last bill.

You can also submit your reading by phoning your water company. Be sure to have your customer number handy when you do this.

Who is my water company?

If you’re not sure who provides your water, you can find your local water supplier at Water UK. You just need to pop in your postcode.

Other tips for ensuring an accurate reading

  • If your water meter is in a spot that’s difficult to read, like somewhere tricky to see or access, take a photo using your phone.
  • Similarly, if it’s dark, use the torch on your phone.
  • Outside meters can sometimes be difficult to read if there’s condensation. Try tapping these a few times to clear it. Likewise, if the meter’s dirty, don’t be shy of giving it a good wipe.

Wondering whether it’s worth getting a meter, or getting rid of one? Find out which is cheaper to run: metered water vs rates.

How can I lower my water bills?

Paying less for water bills is usually a matter of reducing usage, especially if your water is metered. Check out our top tips for reducing your water bill.

You can also find out if it’s cheaper to take a shower or run a bath. And if you have a disability or medical condition which means you use more water, or you live with someone who does, it’s worth seeing if you can get your water bills capped.