13 September 2007

Checking the water meter

I received an email from a reader the other day asking about water saving strategies so I thought now is a good time to be checking our water meters.
In Australia, water charges are bases on kilolitre lots; a kilolitre is 1000 litres.
Click here to find out how to read a water meter in Australia.
In the US, Water meters in the U.S. typically measure volume in gallons or cubic feet. One cubic foot = 7.48 gallons and 100 cubic feet = 748 gallons. Water charges are typically based on 100 cubic feet or on 1000 gallon units.
There are 1000 litres (or 220 gallons) in a cubic metre.

As Australia is such a dry continent, we've been developing our water saving strategies for some time. You can check out this site for some good water saving tips that could be used in every country.

I think we waste a lot of water when we do things like clean our teeth, wash hands and vegetables under running water and rinsing plates and cups before putting them in the dishwasher. Waiting for shower water to heat up is also a big waste. Put a bucket in the shower to catch the cold water and use it the next day to either flush your toilet, or to water your garden. Please add your own water saving tips to the comments box.

  1. Choose a time when you are not using any appliances that use water. (overnight)
  2. Make sure all taps are turned off.
  3. Allow all tanks and cisterns to completely fill (this can take up to 30 minutes).
  4. Take an initial meter reading (read both the black and the red digits).
  5. Leave all appliances turned off for at least an hour after the reading has been taken.
  6. Take a second meter reading (read both the black and the red digits).
  7. If the second reading is greater than the initial reading this indicates that water has passed through the meter and you may have a leak.

If your water meters indicates you have a leak, start looking for it but also contact your water authority as soon as you can. Many water leaks are underground and your water authority will have the ability to find these.


I have been keeping an eye on our water usage for the past year. We use around 6.5 kilolitres a month which is about 116 litres each per day. We don't have water restrictions here but they do in our surrounding shires and the recommendation there is a daily use of 130 litres per person. That is 34.3 gallons per day, per person.

So now you'll need to read your meter and see just how much you are using. Take notes of your readings and let us know what you discover. It will take a few days to get a realistic reading as it will go up and down, but keep with it and see what you use over a week. To get a daily usage per person, divide your weekly total by 7 to get your daily reading, then divide that by the number of people in your family to find out what each person is using. Good luck!


  1. I started to do this at the beginning of this week!!

  2. I learnt about these issues a while back and decided I also wanted to check the meter. Unfortunaltely out townhouse is part of a body corporate and there is only one metre for all ten houses!


  3. We live in an area where water and rainfall are abundant except for Summer (now) and we do use both rainfall and greywater as supplement, and I know we are the conservative people on the block so use far less than our neighbors, but if my math is correct we are each using 88 gallons per day -- which in my mind is totally excessive!!! That can't be right...

    All we do is (sometimes, not as regularly as we should) shower, bathe, laundry, handwash dishes... and water garden. That's it!

  4. Well this is one I can't do as we don't have a water meter. Which is good in the sense that we only use water we catch (or sometimes we have to cart water in) but frustrating in another sense as it's difficult to measure our daily use and challenge ourselves to use less.

    In 2 and a half years we haven't had enough water to fill all our tanks yet. Having a finite amount certainly makes us think about our water usage more though.

  5. I'm the same as lightening, we only have the water that we catch. So far we haven't had to buy any water while neighbours around us have. I'm not sure if that is more good luck than good management but considering we are a household of 6 I don't think we are doing too badly. I would love some kind of meter to see just how much we do use, but they are expensive and hardly seem worth it really.

    cheers lenny

    ps I'm still reading what others do with interest as there is always room for improvement

  6. Oh dear......we fail drastically on this one. I just looked on our water bill and we used 320 litres of water a day for the past 2 months. There are only 2 of us in the house so that is a lot of water.
    I have to admit we aren't very good when it comes to water conserving. We live Ontario that has 1/2 of the worlds fresh water so always dumbly thought we have nothing to worry about. We were much more careful with our water usage when we lived in Australia.
    We will definitely be pulling our socks up and not waste so much water. I will check on our next bill and see how much water we can save.

  7. I struggle with the water usage thing at times. With 'white goods' there is usually an 'eco' setting which uses less water than the normal setting but uses more power as the programmes are longer even if the temps are lower. It is hard to prioritise one over the other in Australia where we are such big polluters and also the driest continent on earth. Personally I put electricity saving first and choose the regular cycles on the washing machine and dishwasher but this is more about living in the north where we do have an abundant supply of water, even if it doesn't rain often where I live (our water is piped from Burdekin dam near Ayr). And I agree about rinsing dishes before using the dishwasher Rhonda. I think most people do this supposedly to improve the results but even my instruction manuals point out that this uses more water in the long run.

    I have just worked out that we use far more water than I ever imagined. I thought we are pretty low users actually, especially since my husband works away and is only here less than 50% of the time. We do have an acre and no rain water tanks though, and on several occasions in the last year I have forgotton to turn off one of the taps on the irrigation circuits. We have a few of these around the place. It is actually VERY rare that we water the shrubs like this which is why I am prone to forgetting that I've left a tap turned on 40m away from the house. I need to improve on this, I know.


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