Incidents of pipe bursts abound during winter. This is because the water in the pipe freezes and exerts pressure on the pipe. Unable to withstand this force, the pipe gives way, resulting in a major leak. At such times, it's vital to shut off the water supply right from the main connection at the kerb. This is when a water meter key comes in handy. Water meter keys -- devices with a "T" shape at one end and a small notch at the other -- are easily available at most DIY centres or hardware shops.
Find the water meter. Look for the metal lid of the meter housing that projects just a little above ground level. Most water meters are generally located just in front of your property. Use a large screwdriver to remove the metal lid and expose the water meter.
Locate the meter valve. Observe the space near the meter -- the valve will be present on the side or on top of the meter. Look closely to find the small metal arrow-like projection located on top of the valve. In some meters, the projection may be shaped differently and have an arrow mark next to it. When the water supply is on, you'll find the arrow aligned along the direction of the pipe running into your premises.
Position the water meter key. Hold the water meter key so that the "T" portion is in your hand and the notched end is pointing down toward the water meter. Lower the key to place its notched end on top of the arrow-like projection.
Stop the water supply. Slowly turn the water meter key about a quarter of a turn to your right in the clockwise direction. Check that the arrow is now perpendicular to the pipe direction. Confirm that the flow of water has stopped by observing the water meter. Meters with a digital display will stop showing a change in number count. Some meters have a small red triangle that keeps rotating as the water moves -- check if this movement has stopped. That will confirm that the water flow has stopped. When you wish to restore water supply, position the water meter key and turn it anti-clockwise.
In some meters, the valve will be located on the side so use a crescent wrench instead of the "T" shaped key.
If your meter valve is a different model -- such as a gate valve -- you'll have to keep turning the water meter key until the valve is closed completely.
Some quarter-turn valves don't have stops. so you can turn the water meter key either clockwise or counterclockwise to shut off the water supply.
Not all UK properties have water meters. However, you can use the same key for the water shut-off stopcock valve outside your house.
Don't apply too much force to turn the valve -- it may cause it to break. If it doesn't yield to repeated mild attempts, contact your local water company to get the valve shut.
Leaving the meter housing uncovered is hazardous -- make sure to replace the meter housing lid after finishing with the meter.