Protecting Public Health and Safety


How to Read Your Meter

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First you need to locate your water meter. Your water meter is located in the ground inside a rectangular box with a metal, plastic or concrete lid marked “water,” usually at the front of the property. If you are unable to locate the meter, call Utility Billing at 530-642-4000 for assistance.


Follow these steps to read your meter:

  • If you are taking a read to check for a leak, make sure no one is using water in the home and that any water-using appliances are not in use (dishwasher, washing machine, sprinklers, etc).
  • Carefully remove the lid of the meter box by using a tool such as a large screwdriver. Insert the tool into one of the holes and pry the lid off. Please visually examine the area around the meter to make sure there are no harmful snakes, insects, or other animals inside. 
    • Lift the metal cover over the face of the meter to uncover the lens. Face the meter so that you are reading the numbers from left to right.
    • Check to see if you have a straight read or digital meter, definitions are listed below. Locate the dial on the meter; it will resemble the odometer in a car. The reading is taken from the figures shown below the words CUBIC FEET. Write down the numbers, reading from left to right. You will use all numbers on the dial which will include black and white areas.
    • Subtract your current reading from your last reading to learn how much water you have used since your last bill. These reads are located on your billing statement. The usage is measured in cubic feet. There are approximately 7.48 gallons of water in 1 cubic foot. 
    • When you are done, close the meter cap to prevent damage from the lens and carefully replace the meter box lid.


    Straight Reading Meters:

    • If you are checking for a leak, look at the sweep hand to see if it is moving. One complete revolution of the sweep hand represents approximately 7.48 gallons of water. If the sweep hand is turning when you are not using water, this is an indication of a possible leak. You can also look at the flow indicator triangle. This will rotate when water passes through the meter. If this is moving it is also an indication of a possible leak. You can also write down your meter reading, wait about half an hour without using water, and read the meter again. If the meter reading has increased during this time, this may also indicate a possible leak. Image of a meter face

    Meter Face











    Digital Water Meters:

    • To activate the register display, open the lid. There are 8 digits/bars on the meter at the top of the digital display (Figure 1). You can monitor the 8th number on the far right to check for leaks (Figure 2). For example, if the number rotates from 0 to 1 when you are not using water, this is an indication of a possible leak. You can also look at the Flow Indicator (Figure 4). If there is a plus sign in the middle of this circle, water is passing through the meter. To view the rate of flow mode, close and open the lid a second time within 30 seconds after initially opening the lid. Rate of flow is measured in gallons per minute. The meter is read in cubic feet (figure 3) and also has a battery life indicator (Figure 5).

    Sensus digital meter

      Sensus register display