Written by Roger the water expert at the Ohio Consumers' Counsel and used with permission.

Learning to read your water meter can help you discover water leaks, monitor water usage and double-check your utility bill. All three of these activities may end up saving your household money in the long run.

Water meters are typically located in your basement, in a concrete box along the front curb or along an outside wall to your house. The meters record water usage in units of cubic feet (Ccf) or gallons.

There are two types of water meters commonly in use today in the United States.

The first type of meter looks like an odometer and is read in the same way. The last two digits to the right can be disregarded because they measure very small units. If zero appears as the last digit to the right, this number never changes. It represents tens of gallons or cubic feet (Ccf) which are recorded by the small pointer hand.

To determine your monthly water usage, write down the meter reading now and then take another reading exactly one month from now. Subtract the old reading from the new reading and you will have the number of water units your household consumed in one month.

You can also check your water usage for one day by taking a reading now and then again tomorrow. This time, include the last two digits as the usage number will be much smaller for one day. Subtract the first reading from the second and you will have the amount of water used in a day.

The second common meter type looks like a set of small clocks which alternate turning clockwise and counterclockwise. The dials can be read by starting with the highest numbered dial (usually 100,000 or 1,000,000) and ending with the dial marked 1,000. The shaded dials labeled 100, 10 and 1 foot can be disregarded for now because they measure small amounts of water.

Look at the pointer on the highest numbered dial. If it is between two numbers, write down the lower number. If the pointer seems to be on a number, check the pointer on the next lower dial. If that hand is located on the "1" side of the zero, read the figure indicated. If not, read the lower figure.

Determining the number may seem tricky when the pointer is between the zero and the nine. In that case, the zero is actually a 10, so nine would be the lower number to choose. If the pointer is between the zero and the one, the chosen number would be zero because zero is less than one.

As with the first meter, take a reading now and again in one month. Subtract the old reading from the new one and you will have your water usage for the month. To do a daily reading, write down all the numbers except the number from the one foot dial. In this case, remember that your reading will be in hundreds of cubic feet (Ccf) instead of cubic feet.

ObCitation: The Ohio Consumers' Counsel is the residential utility advocacy agency for Ohio; their site is at http://www.pickocc.org/