What Is a Water Meter?

Recycling and conservation are the buzzwords of the day, and green is everyone's favorite new color. We all want to pitch in and help, but what's the best way to go about it? One of the simplest things you can do is keep an eye on your water usage. In many cities and municipalities of the U.S.

What Is a Water Meter?

, water meters have long been a fixture in residential homes. But what are these strange things that hide in the bushes alongside the driveway? What exactly do they do?


Water meters are measuring devices attached to water pipes in order to measure usage. In residential homes, they are usually attached to the water inlet coming from the city or municipal supply.


Water meters are used throughout the industrialized and Third World. One of their major benefits is that they encourage water conservation, as the meter is used to determine the amount of water consumed by a household. The more water used by each residence, the higher they are charged for water. The meters also allow utility companies to identify leaks and disruptions in the water supply.


There are two main types of water meters in use: displacement and velocity. In the displacement type, the water moves directly through the meter itself, moving a piston or similar device. Most residential and low-use meters are of this type. Velocity meters, on the other hand, are mostly used in industrial applications. These meters determine water volume by measuring water speed, which is then converted into usage statistics.

Reading a Meter

Modern meters have a number of different interfaces that can be used to determine usage. The most common of these is the standard register. These look like a speedometer on the typical automobile with a numbered readout in the middle. The numbered readout gives the amount of water used to the nearest gallon, while the sweeping arm is used to determine amounts less than one gallon. Meters can also be equipped with a standard LCD screen, such as those found on digital clocks. Some meters can also be equipped with radio outputs, which allow them to be read automatically.


Some municipalities in the U.S. have been installing these radio meters (also called "Smart" meters) in a number of places, but they are being met with some resistance. Cities say that these types of meters allow them to monitor water pattern usage. For example, they would be able to spot people who are watering their lawn when water restrictions are imposed. Some groups see this as an invasion of privacy.