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How to Read Your Meter

Automated Water Meters
New automated water meters are now in place for nearly all of San Francisco’s 178,000 water accounts. This new technology transmits hourly water use data to our billing system by wireless network. For properties with automated water meters installed, customers now have easy online access to bill and water use information with our customer website, My Account. Registered My Account users can also download detailed daily and monthly water use reports.

To manually read your meter or to learn more about using the meter to detect leaks, the instructions below can help identify the type of meter installed on your property. For further assistance, please call (415) 551-3000.

water meter box
There are three types of meters; straight-reading meters, digital-reading meters, and round-reading meters. Meters are usually located in the sidewalk in front of homes or businesses. Accessing meters should be done very carefully. Automated water meter transmitters are housed within the meter box and can be easily damaged. Use caution when removing the meter lid to avoid disconnecting wire transmitters.

Straight-Reading Meter
Reading this type of meter is simple. It resembles the mileage odometer in an automobile. The numbers are read from left to right and have either movable or painted permanent digits.

  • The odometer digits display readings in cubic feet.
  • For billing purposes, the reads are rounded to the nearest unit of water (100 cubic feet or CCF).
  • The large red sweep hand can be used to help identify plumbing leaks.

For example:

Figure 1
elster water meter dial
Figure 2
elster water meter dial
The Figure 1 dial reads 9260 cubic feet or 93 units of water. The Figure 2 dial reads 11363 cubic feet or 114 units of water.
If Figure 1 represents a January meter read and Figure 2 represents a February meter read, then 21 units of water were used over that monthly billing period.

Checking for Leaks
The red sweep hand turns clockwise as water passes through the meter. To detect leaks, turn off all indoor water fixtures and irrigation valves. Watch for movement on the red sweep hand and leak indicator triangle. Small amounts of water passing through the meter, such as dripping faucets and silent toilet leaks may cause movement on the leak indicator. More prevalent plumbing leaks will register movement on the red sweep hand. It may take several minutes or hours for intermittent leaks to register on the water meter.

If you cannot isolate the plumbing or irrigation system leak and the meter continues to register use with all fixtures off, shut off the property’s main water supply. The main valve is typically located just inside the basement or garage in a straight line from the meter box. If the valve is shut off and water continues to pass through the meter, there may be a leak in the pipe between the water meter and the valve.

Visit our home leaks pages for tips on how to identify common household leaks. Leaks on private property are the customer's responsibility to repair.

Digital-Reading Meter

Digital-reading meters are typically found on multi-family and commercial properties. To read a digital meter, shine a flashlight on the solar panel at a 45° angle. After a few seconds, the dial will light up and alternate between the meter read, which is read from left to right, and the current flow rate of water passing through the meter. As with straight-reading meters, the read is rounded to the nearest unit of water for billing purposes.

For example:

Figure 3
digital water meter
Figure 4
digital water meter
Figure 3 reads 91754 cubic feet or 918 units of water. Figure 4 reads 94926 cubic feet or 949 units of water.
If Figure 3 represents your January meter read and Figure 4 represents your February meter read, then you used 31 units of water over that billing period.

old style round water meter dialRound-Reading Meter
The round-reading meter has several dials in a circle and is a little more difficult to read. There are very few of these remaining in San Francisco and they are not on our Automated Water Meter reading system. For questions about reading the round-reading meter, please call (415) 551-3000.

Last updated: 4/6/2015 3:50:22 PM