How to Test a Water Meter

Updated November 21, 2016

Testing your water meter will help you ensure it is accurate. Most city water facilities will test your water meter for you. However, if the meter proves to be accurate, you might be charged for the testing service. Leaks in your water lines can cause a meter reading to appear inaccurate. Make sure that everyone in your home knows not to flush the toilet or run any water while you are conducting the water meter test. Prior to performing a test you must bleed all of the air from your water lines as air also causes inaccuracies in meters reading.

Turn off the water to your entire house. Locate the water valve that runs from the street to your house. This is usually found near your sidewalk. Use a water key to turn the water valve knob the opposite way it currently sits. Most valve knobs will have an arrow on them. When the arrow is pointed toward the street, the water is shut off.

Turn on the drain that sits at the lowest point of the house. This should be one of the outdoor faucets.

Open most of the faucets inside of the house.

Turn the main valve water line back on once the faucet at the lowest point of the house no longer drains water. Leave all of the faucets open during this step.

Close off all of the faucets once they stop sputtering air out.

Place a five gallon bucket below an outdoor faucet. You can use a hose to direct the water into the bucket if it will not fit under the faucet.

Level the bucket by placing it on flat ground and setting the level on top of it. Place items, such as magazines, under the bucket until it is level, if needed. Make sure the bucket is steady.

Pour 15 quarts of water into the bucket and mark the inside of the bucket with a pen where the water line is. Place a pen mark four times, once every 90 degrees. Use a measuring cup to ensure your 15 quart measurement is accurate.

Dump the water out and place the bucket back down ensuring it is again steady. Use the level to verify the bucket is on flat ground.

Position another person at the meter with a two-way radio or cell phone. Open a faucet to allow a slow stream of water to come out. Have the person at the meter notify you when the water meter pointer is pointed to the 12 or 6 o'clock position. Turn the water off.

Open the faucet over the bucket so that a slow to medium stream of water is coming out. Turn the water off when the main water pointer has moved 180 degrees. Repeat this step if the water is shut off too soon or too late. It must be precise.

Verify the water is bucket is still level and then evaluate the test results. If the bucket is not level dump it out, level the bucket and start again. A water level below the water line mark in the bucket means the water meter is possibly over-registering, or that you have a water leak somewhere. A water level above the mark means the water meter is possibly under-registering.


Prior to starting the test, make sure all air is bled from 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.


Stop all known leaks prior to conducting a water meter test as they will cause inaccuracies.

Things You'll Need

  • Water key
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Carpenter's level longer than the bucket's diameter
  • Pen or felt tip marker
  • Garden hose (possible)
  • Measuring container which can measure quarts
  • Walkie talkie set or cell phones
  • Extra person
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About the Author

Maeri Claire specializes in oral and written communications, and has been writing technical and training documents since 2003. Claire graduated in 2000 from an academy in British Columbia.