Checking Water Bill Accuracy: Home Checks for Water Meter Readings

Sometimes a water bill arrives that seems unusually expensive compared to previous bills. A high water bill could be the result of an inaccurate meter, an inaccurate read by the water utility provider, or an undiscovered water leak on the property.

Before contacting the utility provider, it is possible for homeowners to perform some quick tests that might give an indication of where the problem lies.

First steps

The first thing to check is the meter reading itself. Locate the water meter and check the reading against the number listed on the account. If the meter reading is lower than the account reading, it is likely that the bill has been calculated on an inaccurate reading.

It is important to ensure that the water meter is easily accessible for the utility provider. If they are unable to find or access the meter, they may simply calculate the water bill based on average usage, which could explain discrepancies in the meter and statement readings.

Check for Unexpected Meter Changes

Check the meter readings before leaving the house for the day and check again on returning home. Ensure that there are no appliances using water during this time such as dishwashers or washing machines. If the meter shows a higher reading at the end of the day, this indicates that there is a leak somewhere on the property. It will be necessary to employ a licensed plumber to locate the leak. This should be done as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary damage to the structure or property.

Check Meter Accuracy

If no leaks are detected, the next thing to check is the meter accuracy. This can be done with a simple bucket test.

Use a bucket or container that is marked with litres. Check the meter, particularly noting the litres reading. Fill the container with 5 – 10 litres of water, making sure that no other water is used while testing (eg toilets flushed, taps turned on, washing machine). Check the meter again to ensure that the reading has changed the appropriate amount. If the reading is correct, then this should indicate that the meter is registering accurate water usage.

Contacting the Utility Provider

If the meter reading is less than that shown on the account or there is a discrepancy in the meter reading after the bucket test, it is now time to contact the water provider.

If the discrepancy is due to a simple misreading of the meter, a new reading can be taken and the account adjusted accordingly. If the accuracy of the meter is in question, the process is a little more complicated.

It is possible to have a water meter officially checked for accuracy, but this is generally undertaken at the expense of the consumer. If this test demonstrates that the meter is inaccurate, the test charge will generally be refunded and the account adjusted. If the test shows the meter to be accurate, the consumer is out of pocket for the test and will still have to pay the outstanding water bill.

Monitor Water Usage

To assess what might be causing excess water usage, monitor meter readings each day at the same time. If a large jump in the reading is noted, review what has happened during the previous 24 hours that might have used extra water.

Following these simple steps allows consumers to check that water meter readings are accurate before contacting the water provider to dispute an account.