Water usage is measured by consumption units. One consumption unit is the same as 748.5 gallons or 100 cubic feet. A container five feet long by five feet wide and four feet high holds one consumption unit.
Consumption may be high for many reasons. If a bill is estimated too low for a length of time, an actual meter reading may result in a large increase. More people may be living in the household. During the summer, water consumption may be higher because you are watering the lawn or garden, or an outside hose may be left on. In commercial situations, you may have water-cooled air conditioning or your business may have increased or changed adding to water usage. Often, consumption may be high because of leaky plumbing.
Customers often think the meter is not working right causing high readings. To test the accuracy of your meter, use the following procedure:
Run water until the test dial (the red sweep hand located on the face of the meter) points to zero. The test hand will be straight up in the 12 o'clock position when it is on zero. Fill a one-gallon container with water. Check the position of the red test dial. It should measure .1333 cubic feet.
Newer types of water meters have a leak indicator on the face of the dial. It is a triangular or diamond-shaped indicator that revolves 354 times for every gallon of water that passes through the meter. (Note: You may see what looks like water on the face of the dial. It is oil that prevents corrosion and increases the life of the dial mechanism. It does not enter the water supply and does not affect the quality of the water delivered to the customer.)
To check for leaks, look at the indicator when no one is drawing water. It should not be moving. If it is moving, check every plumbing fixture at the property, i.e., toilet, sink, outside sprinkler, washer, etc. Shut off the valves that supply each fixture, one by one, and check the indicator after each shutoff. When closing a valve stops the indicator from moving, or slows its movement, you have found the location of a leak. There may be more than one leak!
Be sure to check toilets at the property! Toilet leaks are the most common and are hard to see or hear. Put food coloring or laundry bluing in the toilet tank and wait 10 minutes. Do not flush the toilet during this time. If the coloring appears in the toilet bowl, there is a toilet leak. Also, if you hear the toilet refilling and no one has used it, there is a leak. A major toilet leak can waste 800 cubic feet of water a day -- which in some areas could cost up to $5.00 for water and $12.00 for sewer each day. That adds up quickly!
Look for leaky faucets, too. A fast drip from a faucet wastes about 265 gallons a day -- which in some municipalities would cost 40 cents for water and $ .92 for sewer per day. That's over $40 a month! Repair leaky faucets and toilets promptly -- do it yourself or call a plumber because these leaks cost money.
Once the leak is repaired, check the leak indicator again and make sure all leaks are repaired.