Water Meter and Leaks

Water DropOverview
Reading my Meter
Checking for Leaks and Tracking Consumption
Turning off Your Meter/Meter Maintenance
Fire Protection Meter
Water Pressure
Service Laterals


Your water use is measured by a meter that meets accuracy standards set by American Water Works Association. OMWD reads meters each month or whenever an account holder starts or stops service. It is important that you or anyone caring for your home knows where your meter is located and how to turn it off if there is an emergency such as a leak. Your meter is located below ground and usually near the street. Occasionally, you may find several meters grouped together. To verify the meter you are looking at is your own, compare the meter number found on your bill to the identification number on the meter dial.

For assistance in locating your meter, contact us at 760-753-6466. More information about meter reading, leak detection, and maintenance can be found on this page.

Reading Your Meter

Your water meter records the amount of water used on your property in a similar manner as an odometer records the number of miles driven in your automobile. The meter is never reset. Most residential meters, including meters ranging in size from 5/8 of an inch to 1 inch, have eight digits on the register. Only the first four numbers to the far left are used in the computation of your bill. For example, a meter register reading 013896514 would show on your water bill as 0138. The difference between the current meter read and last month’s meter read is your consumption for the given billing period. Each billing unit equals one hundred cubic feet (hcf), which is equivalent to 748 gallons.

Analog Dial display

Digital dial

OMWD currently utilizes two different types of meter reading technology. AMR is a drive-by method of collecting reads through which an OMWD field service technician drives along your street each month, and your meter reads are transmitted electronically from the meter to our truck. OMWD is in the process of installing new technology called Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or AMI. The remainder of the district is read using this system. After the upgrade to AMI, meter read data is transmitted to a nearby “fixed-base” receiver rather than a district vehicle. Since the AMI system drastically reduces costs associated with meter reading, like labor and fuel, OMWD can better control our costs while reducing our carbon footprint. We are currently in the process of expanding this system, and by 2025 OMWD will read all meters in our service area by AMI.

For more information, please view this video demonstration of how meters are read.

Checking for Leaks and Tracking Consumption

Unfortunately, leaks happen. Every month, OMWD staff works to identify accounts with spikes in water use and notify affected customers. Please ensure that we have your up-to-date contact information by notifying us of any change in mailing address or telephone number.

To test for a possible leak in your system, make sure that all water fixtures, appliances, and irrigation are turned off, then check the small leak detector on your meter dial, as well as the single digit at the far right of the register. For analog dials, the leak detector is a small red circle located near the numbers that are read for billing. If the leak detector is spinning, water is flowing. The speed at which the dial spins indicates how quickly the water is flowing. On digital dials, water flow is indicated by a blinking plus sign in the small circle under the register. If you are watching the digit on the far right of the register, wait approximately 10 minutes, and then check the meter again. If the digit has advanced, water is running somewhere on your property.

While checking the leak indicator should be one of the first steps taken when unexpected high use has occurred, some leaks are not easily identified using this method. Toilet leaks and irrigation system leaks often occur intermittently. If your toilet is running every five minutes, the leak detector will only register the water use while the toilet is running. Similarly, leaks within irrigation systems or due to broken sprinkler heads might only result in water loss while the irrigation system is on. However, both of these leak scenarios can result in substantial increases in water consumption. For more tips to troubleshoot leaks, please see our brochure Leak Guidelines for Homeowners.

Customers may consider leak detection devices available online or at home improvements stores. Such products monitor water flow rate, sound alarms if a leak is present, send alerts to your smartphone, or shut off the water supply if a leak is detected. These products vary in cost and function, and customers are encouraged to research the devices before buying. OMWD does not endorse any one company, product, or service.

Meters can also be valuable tools to help you understand your household’s consumption patterns and track specific usage events. For example, if you plan on refilling a swimming pool or scheduling household maintenance that requires an increase in water use, it is a good idea to read your meter before and after the activity to identify how much water was consumed during that event.

Over half of residential water use in our area goes toward outdoor irrigation. If your landscape is maintained by a professional service, ask that they notify you any time that your irrigation timer has been adjusted. Their job is to keep your plants looking attractive and healthy, but changes to irrigation settings can result in unexpected increases in water use. Estimate your outdoor water use by reading your meter before and after a complete irrigation cycle and extrapolating that consumption to the number of days you irrigate each month. OMWD offers a free water use evaluation to its customers to help improve each customer’s water use efficiency.

Meter Maintenance

Turning meter on/off

The flow of water is controlled to your property by a ball valve located just after your meter. When the handle is in a position parallel to the water line, water can flow through the pipe. If the handle is turned so that it runs perpendicular to the water line, the flow of water is stopped. If the handle hasn’t been moved for a long period of time, it can become very difficult to turn. To safeguard your ability to easily turn off your water in an emergency, it is a good idea to service the ball valve occasionally by simply moving it to the off and on positions. It is important that water is turned back on slowly to avoid complications such as water hammer (a pressure wave that results in a knocking noise, vibration, and potentially pipe damage.) If you are unable to move the handle into the off position, please notify our office by calling 760-753-6466 or email Customer Service.

Ball Valve Diagram

Lifting meter lid

When lifting the meter lid, use caution to ensure the wires that connect the meter to the radio transmitter do not become disconnected. Most of the time, simply lifting the smaller lid in the center of the meter box is sufficient to read your meter or check the leak indicator. Detailed information can be found on our Instructions for Lid Removal page. If you suspect that the wires in your meter box have been disturbed or if your meter lid has been damaged, please notify our office by calling 760-753-6466 or email Customer Service.

Meter lid 1Meter lid 2Meter lid 3

Check leak indicator

Water use is billed one month in arrears, meaning the bill created on March 31 is reflecting water use during the month of February. Once a high bill is received, it is possible that a leak has already occurred for a month or more. To be proactive in leak detection in your home, check the leak indicator on a monthly basis using the instructions provided in the section Checking for Leaks and Tracking Consumption.

Nothing over the meter: fences, branches, or parked vehicles

It is imperative that OMWD field service technicians are able to access your meter in case of a water emergency. Customers are responsible for keeping meter boxes and their surrounding areas clean and accessible. Ensure nothing is covering the meter lid, including vehicles and overgrown plants. Sometimes dirt and mud find their way into meter boxes which can make your meter difficult to read or service. When this occurs, it is necessary to remove the excess dirt from the meter box.

Meter Clearance image

Fire Protection Meters

Some properties require a separate fire meter in order to supply water to fire sprinklers. Fire meters are intended solely for fire protection purposes and should not use water outside of those needs. If water consumption is detected on a fire meter, our office will contact you to notify you of a potential leak or illicit use.

The fire meter should always have water availability; therefore, it does not have a ball valve to turn it off. If you need to turn off water service to the fire line for repairs, please contact our office by calling 760-753-6466 or email Customer Service.

Water Pressure

Maintaining ideal water pressure (45-65 PSI indoors and 65-120 PSI outdoors) on the private side of the meter is an often overlooked strategy to improve water efficiency and prevent leaks. In order to provide adequate pressure for fire protection to all service connections in an area, water from the main line can come through the meter in some locations at a pressure that is higher than ideal for home appliances. For this reason, many homes have a pressure regulator to reduce pressure coming into the home, protecting appliances and water lines from leaks. Pressure-regulating devices are also available for irrigation systems to reduce water waste from misting, evaporation, and wind drift. The purchase and maintenance of pressure regulators are the responsibility of the property owner. OMWD recommends regular maintenance and replacement of pressure regulators as part of an effective plan to use water wisely and avoid damage caused by high pressure.

OMWD personnel may be able to assist you in estimating your home’s water pressure. Call 760-753-6466 or email Customer Service for any questions related to your water pressure. Please also see our Household Water Pressure brochure for frequently asked questions about water pressure, and view the video on this page.


Service Laterals

Service laterals are the pipelines connecting a customer’s property to OMWD water mains, as illustrated below. Water laterals are subject to the same elements as OMWD’s pipelines, such as ground shifting, fluctuating temperatures, tree root penetration, and corrosion. OMWD proactively maintains its infrastructure to ensure against costly emergency repairs and extended disruptions of service to customers. However, customers should be aware that they are responsible for the maintenance of the private portion of their water service lateral that is on the customer’s side of the water meter. Failure of these laterals can culminate in lengthy water service interruptions and large amounts of wasted water and represent a significant expense to customers. Repairs to the lateral are not typically covered under home insurance policies, and customers are encouraged to ask their insurer for details.

image showing that OMWD's responsibility on a service lateral pipeline ends after the customer's water meter


All OMWD employees carry photo identification. If you are ever in doubt, please ask to see identification.