How to Read a Water Meter in Cubic Feet

In the U.S., water meters are designed to measure water in a specific unit called a cubic foot. The standard water meter measures a cubic foot of water by using a dial and an odometer. The dial is numbered 1 through 10, and the odometer measures the total cubic foot water usage since the installation of the water system. The information is read by a meter reader regularly to ensure that the figures are correct and that no tampering has occurred.

A water meter accompanies customers of water companies wherever water is provided.
  1. Locate the water meter. It is usually on the side of a house or building above exposed water piping that services the house or building.

  2. Read the odometer on the water meter and write down the number in a notebook using a pen. The numbers are read from left to right.

  3. Multiply the numbers written in the notebook by 1 cubic foot. If the odometer reads 12,987 then you have used a total of 12,987 cubic feet of water during the life of the home or building. This number can be multiplied again by 7.48 to find the total number of gallons used during the life of the home or building.

  4. Wait one month. View the water meter's odometer and write down the new number. Subtract the previous number from the new number and multiply by 1 cubic foot. This will tell you the number of cubic feet of water you used in one month.


  • Tampering with a water meter is considered theft and is illegal.
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