How to read a water meter

When it comes to water waste, you may be doing it without even knowing it. Running toilets and leaky faucets may seem minor but are actually costing you money and precious water: up to 10,000 gallons a year, per household. 

Here are some instructions on how to read your meter, determine if you have a leak, and low cost ways to fix leaks yourself. 

  1. Reading your meter
  2. Determine if you have a leak

All Healdsburg customers have a meter that measures their water use. Meters are usually in the ground under a cement, steel or concrete cover marked "WATER" by the street.

Water bills reflect how much water was used since the last meter reading. Meters measure cubic feet of water used (one cubic foot equals 7-1/2 gallons). Healdsburg bills in units of 1 hundred cubic feet which is equivalent to 748 gallons

   HRe MeterRTR Meter

How to read a straight-reading meter:

Read the numbers shown on the dials of your meter. The meter below reads 123456.78, which is the total number of cubic feet of water recorded since the meter was installed. Because our charge is based on units of 100 cubic feet, the meter reader disregards the last four numbers and records a reading of 1234 units.

HRe Meter Reading

If you used 1,200 cubic feet of water during the next billing period, the next meter reading would be 123456.78 + 1200 = 124656.78 cubic feet. Your bill would be based on the difference between the two readings, or 12 units at 748 gallons per unit (8,976 gallons).  

Note: the large hand is used only for testing purposes and leak detection. Newer meters also have a small gear that is usually red or blue, that spins when water is used.  

There are variations in Healdsburg's meters, so be sure you check which way each dial is turning when you make a reading. If you have questions about your meter or water service, call 707-431-3307 or email

  1. Leaky Toilet
  2. Water Heater Leaks
  3. Irrigation Leaks
  4. Swimming Pool Leaks

Toilet leaks are the number one cause of high water bills.  The leak may be caused by a failing flapper, plunger ball, float ball or fill valve. 

  1. First, listen for hissing or trickling sounds, or a periodic “whoosh” caused by the toilet topping itself off every few minutes. These are all signs that a leak exists.
  2. Drop a dye tablet or several drops of ordinary food coloring into the toilet tank. (Healdsburg offers free dye tabs) Wait a few minutes. If color shows up in the toilet bowl, you have a leak.
  3. Next, turn off the toilet’s water supply (usually it has a diamond shaped handle, near the wall at the base of the toilet) and mark the water level inside the tank. Wait 15 minutes and then check the water level.
  4. If it has dropped below your mark, the problem is at the bottom of the toilet tank at the flapper or plunger ball. However – if the water level has stayed the same, then the problem is an overflow near the top of the tank, involving the float ball or the fill valve – or both.
close carousel

High Bills 

On-going leaks can results in high water usage and therefore high water costs. The City offers a water leak adjustment for residents that fix leaks. Visit the FAQs on how to get a credit issued for a fixed leak.