Seattle Public Utilities Ray Hoffman, Director

Locate, Read & Test for Accuracy

Locate your meter

Water meters are typically located:

  • in iron boxes sunk in the ground;
  • in the parking strip or sidewalk in front of or at the side of your house;
  • or they covered by a 1x2 ft. metal plate that says CWM (City Water Meter).

Read your meter

If you’re interested in how much water you are using on a daily basis, or if you want to find out if you have a leak, you’ll need to know how to read your water meter.

water meter

  • Use a small rod, crow bar or screwdriver to lift the lid off the cover.
  • Write down the last three (3) numbers printed on the meter cap.
  • Lift the cap and write down the four black and two red numbers on the meter from left to right just as you would on a car/ mileage odometer (see image to the right).
  • Lower the cap, and securely replace the metal cover.

Testing your water meter for accuracy

If you feel that your water meter is not accurate you can test the meter yourself, or call customer service at (206) 684-3000 to request a test. If you request a meter test and SPU finds the meter to be accurate within industry standards, SPU may charge you for the cost of the test. You are required to perform your own test before requesting a test on a meter smaller than two inches.

Look for leaks and ask other water users on the premises if they are aware of any leaks that were isolated and/or repaired (toilets, faucets, water running from an outdoor faucet, etc).

Supplies for testing

You will need:

  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Carpenter’s level (longer than the bucket’s diameter)
  • Felt tip marker
  • Garden hose
  • Measuring container (which can measure quarts)

If you don’t have the items listed, try to borrow from a friend, or purchase these items from a local hardware store.

Meter testing procedure

Note: In the following test procedure, we have rounded off one cubic foot (7.48 gallons) to 7.5 gallons to simplify the procedure.

  1. Place the five gallon bucket on level ground beneath an outdoor faucet. If there isn’t enough room, connect a garden hose to the faucet, and direct the hose to the bucket (on level ground) and remove all kinks from the hose. (Note: Stop all leaks prior to conducting the test. Water leaks will cause inaccuracies and invalidate the test.)
  2. Level the bucket by placing a carpenter’s level on top of the bucket. Level the bucket by digging or shimming until the air bubble on the level is between the two reference lines. Raise and lower each side of the bucket as needed. Repeat this procedure in a crisscross pattern, rotating the level 90 degrees between each adjustment until the bucket is level. The bucket should rest solidly on its surface. Unsteady buckets will invalidate the accuracy test.
  3. Using the measuring container, pour exactly 15 quarts of water inside the bucket.
  4. Mark the water level inside the bucket. Markings should be every 90 degrees.
  5. Empty the bucket. Check your marks on the bucket; and re-mark if necessary.
  6. Move the position of the register pointer on the water meter to a position that works best for you. You can do this by positioning a person at the meter and another person at the faucet. Turn water on and off until the .1 dial pointer reaches the 12:00 or 6:00 position.
  7. Place the bucket back in its original position and repeat step.

Note: Prior to starting the test, make sure all air is bled from the faucet and/or hose. Water must be visible at the end of the hose prior to test. Failure to do so will invalidate the test. Also, ensure that water will not be used on property during test. Water used for other than testing purposes will invalidate test.

  1. Station a person at the meter and position the end of the hose over the bucket. Open the faucet to establish a medium flow rate of water. As soon as the .1 dial rotates 180 degrees to the 6:00 or 12:00 o’clock position, immediately shut off the water. If the water was shut off too soon or too late, repeat the test.

Evaluate the test results

If the water level is below the mark, the water meter is possibly over-registering:

  • Ensure bucket is still level.
  • Double check read on meter to ensure it rotated no more or no less than one half turn on the .1 dial. The pointer should be at the 12:00 or the 6:00 position, opposite from the point from which you began your test. See step 6.
  • Verify no water leaks on property and that the only water used during the test was for the test.
  • Verify that the hose was full of water prior to test.

If the water level is above the mark, the water meter is possibly under-registering:

  • Make sure the bucket is still level.
  • Double check the reading on the meter to ensure it traveled no more or no less than ½ cubic foot.