Keep Your Water Meter Accessible
Water meters are read monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly, depending on the type of account you have. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the importance of keeping the meter accessible to our staff. Parked vehicles, overgrown plants, yard debris and construction materials prevent meter readers and maintenance crews from doing their jobs. We will leave a notice on your property if we were not able to access your meter. You may receive an estimated bill if we could not obtain a meter reading.
Not only does City Code require meters to be kept clear...it makes sense, too. A blocked meter may not allow you to shut water off quickly if a pipe bursts or a major appliance fails.
Please minimize planting in the area around your meter. If a planting obstructs the meter, you will be asked to prune it or remove it. The Portland Water Bureau can do the work for you if you prefer. For information, contact Customer Service.
City Council authorizes the Water Bureau, by ordinance, to assess a fee each time a City employee must return to a property in order to read or maintain a meter that has been blocked. Your account is subject to that fee any time a meter reader or utility worker is unable to do their required job. If necessary, vehicles parked over a meter may be cited and towed.
Show Your Address
Please ensure the number is clearly displayed on your home or business. This also assists emergency personnel who may need to find your address in a hurry.
Water meters are typically located in front of your house or business and inside a meter box that is set flush to the ground. Look for the meter box on the street side of the sidewalk or set into the sidewalk.
- Residential Properties: The meter box is usually located in the public right of way (sidewalks and parking strips are part of the right of way) adjacent to the property line. If your home is on a corner lot, it might be on either the front or side street depending on the location of the main serving your property. If your property is situated on an unimproved street, the meter box may be hidden by gravel or vegetation. If you need help finding it, please contact Customer Service.
- Commercial Buildings: In some commercial buildings, the meter may be accessed from inside the building basement. The meters to some multi family properties or large commercial buildings may be located in a vault with limited access. In some cases where meter reading is difficult, special meters allow us to obtain automated readings.
Reading Your Water Meter
All water services in Portland are metered. Meter readings determine the water and sewer charges on your quarterly bill. Reading your meter is a great way to detect a leak if you have one.
- Step 1: Locate your meter. At residential properties, the water meter is generally located in the ground near the curb in front of the house. The meter box will have a metal lid with “Water Meter” marked on top.
- Step 2: Open the meter. To read the meter, remove the lid of your water meter box. Be careful! Lids can be heavy and sometimes bugs and small animals hide inside the meter boxes. Replace the lid each time you finish looking at the meter to avoid a safety hazard.
- Step 3: Understand the dial. Water is measured in CCFs, which are units of 100 cubic feet or 748 gallons.
- Step 4: Find the leak detection dial. Most residential meters have a leak detection dial. The leak detection dial may be a red or blue triangular-shaped dial or a blue snowflake-shaped dial. It may spin rapidly when water is running. If water is dripping, the leak detection dial may move slowly.
Checking for Leaks
The meter is a great tool for checking your home for leaks. Now that you are familiar with where your meter is located and how it works, follow these steps to see whether you have a leak:
- Step 1: Stop using water. Turn off all water inside and outside the house including showers, sinks, the washing machine, and any other appliance that uses water.
- Step 2: Watch the meter. Carefully take the lid off the water meter box. If your meter has a triangular blue or red “leak indicator” dial and it is spinning, you may have a leak. If there is no leak indicator and the actual meter sweep hand is moving, water is running somewhere in your system and you may have a leak. If the hand is not moving, note the position of the hand and wait several hours, making sure not to use any water in the house or yard. Check the meter again. If it has moved, you may have a slow leak.
- Step 3: Find the leak — indoors or outdoors? If you do have a leak, you will need to determine whether it’s an indoor leak or an outdoor leak. Locate the main water shut-off valve in your house. It is usually located near the hot water heater, which may be in your basement or garage. Turn off the valve.
- Step 4: Test the valve. Turn on a faucet inside the house to test your shut-off valve. If water still flows from the faucet after several seconds, the shut-off valve is not working. There is no way to tell whether the leak is indoors or outdoors. If no water flows from the faucet, the shut-off valve is working. Return to the meter.
- Step 5: Check whether the meter’s leak indicator or dial hand is moving. If the leak indicator or dial hand is still moving, water is flowing between the meter and the shut-off valve in the house. That means you may have a leak between the shut-off valve and your meter, possibly an underground leak. If the hand is not moving, you may have a leak somewhere within your home’s plumbing system. Possible sources are leaking toilets, faucets, appliances or even garden hoses.
Notice of Increased Usage
Meter readers upload the readings from your meter into a hand-held electronic unit they carry with them. The unit sends a signal to the reader if it detects an unusually high reading for the property. When that happens, the reader will leave a notice of increased usage on your property to let you know. The notice suggests some reasons, such as summer watering, an increased number of people in the household and structural or underground leaks. A chart on the back of the card shows how much water is wasted due to leaks.
Cold Weather Preparation
Even in our mild climate, unpredictable winter weather sneaks up on us occasionally. When it does it can wreak havoc on your water pipes if you are not prepared. Icy winds and cold temperatures can leave you without running water and do a lot of damage if your pipes freeze. There are many precautions you can take to be ready for cold weather when it arrives.