Meter Information

Getting a New Meter

Are you considering a second water meter, possibly for your irrigation system? With a second meter, you can eliminate the sewer charge for water that does not return to the sanitation system. Typically, in a residential setting, this is not cost effective because of the Winter Quarter Averaging Program (WQAP). With the WQAP, your sewer charge is a set amount (recalculated annually) based on the three lowest consumption periods during the winter months.

However, if you continue normal landscape watering through the winter months, you may still benefit from a second meter for your irrigation system. As part of your calculations, it should be noted that each meter is assessed a minimum monthly charge. If you would like an estimate on installation, please contact Building Inspections at 972-941-7140.

How Meters Are Read

Reading Water Meters is Easy, Right?

Reading a water meter looks pretty easy. You could probably read your water meter in just a few minutes. But how about over 80,000 water meters?! All 80,000 plus water meters in Plano are read every month.

The city is divided into 20 geographic cycles for meter reading purposes. Your water meter is read about the same date each month for billing give or take a day or two, depending on weekends and holidays.

If something is blocking access to the water meter box, repeat visits are made to obtain a meter reading or the customer is contacted prior to billing. Meters are normally read between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday (Saturday occasionally). They are identified by a shirt with the City logo on it.

How Do They Collect All Those Meter Readings?

For over 20 years now, the meter readers have used hand-held computers to capture meter readings. When the meter reader enters the reading, the computer quickly calculates the amount of water used and compares it with water usage for the previous month. If the current water usage exceeds the previous water usage by more than expected, the computer alerts the meter reader, who must then re-read the meter and re-enter the meter reading. This is this first audit of the meter reading.

In the summer of 2008, the city began installing its second generation meter reading system. This Fixed Network System eliminates the need to send a person to physically read the meter. A unit called an MTU (meter transmitting unit) is attached by wire to an electronic meter register. The unit records a reading from the meter four times daily and transmits the reading using a radio frequency signal to a device called a DCU (data collector unit). The DCU relays all readings received each day to the Billing office via the city's Wi-Fi system.

What Does a Meter Reading Look Like?

The City uses several brands of water meters. All have a meter register that looks very much like the odometer in your car, and have six or seven digits to read. The meter readings are read in tens, hundreds or thousands of gallons. The billing system is programmed to take these meter readings and calculate the correct water usage in thousands of gallons.

Meter Box Maintenance

Meter Box Functions

Your water meter box is usually round, with a cast iron or plastic top and steel sides. Some meter boxes are rectangular and made of concrete. A very few are made of totally plastic. In residential areas, it is usually, but not always, located between the sidewalk and the street, or in the sidewalk. (Not to be confused with your private, irrigation meter box - if you have one - which is green, rectangular plastic.)

Lowering the Meter Reading Cost

The faster the Meter Readers can get to your meter, collect the meter reading, and be off to the next meter, the lower the meter reading cost. There are a few things you can do to expedite this process:

  • Keep items off of the meter box such as trash canisters, potted plants, vehicles and debris.
  • Keep shrubbery and other landscaping from obstructing a clear and easy access to the meter box.
  • Trim the grass around the meter box.

Turning Off Your Water

Know How to Turn Off Your Water

There may be occasions when you need to turn your water supply off, such as when repairing a simple drippy faucet, replacing the water heater, installing an irrigation system. Most homes are equipped with interior and exterior shut-off valves for this purpose.

Note: Most additions including plumbing additions, require a permit. Please contact Building Inspections at 972-941-7140 or before beginning the project.

Interior Shut-Off Valves These are typically found in the following places:

  • Above water heaters
  • Behind toilets
  • Inside bathroom and kitchen cabinets, under the sink

Exterior (private) Shut-Off Valves

With this valve, you can shut water off for the entire house, a specific exterior faucet or an irrigation system. The valve for this is located in a valve box outside the house. This rectangular, plastic (sometimes concrete) valve box is usually black or green and is set in the ground near the front faucet. The box may be difficult to find because it is seldom used and over the years may become covered with a layer of dirt or shrubbery. This box may also be erroneously marked "water meter." However, it is not the water meter.

Inside the box there can be up to five wheel valves and will require a trial-and-error process to determine the function of each valve. Some valves will turn water off and some valves may be designed to drain or "bleed" water from the water lines.

Irrigation systems can usually be shut-off at two points - at the automatic control box or a valve control box. The valve control boxes are set in the ground, sometimes near the water meter. They too, are rectangular, green plastic, or concrete and can be covered by a layer of dirt and grass. Inside the box there will be two wheel valves and a series of smaller bleed valves. Either of the wheel valves will shut-off the water.

Exterior Shut-Off at the Meter Box

If you have the tools to access the meter box, then the water can be turned off at the city’s meter. Most residential meter boxes are located by the street between the sidewalk and curb. After inserting the key, turn the key counter clockwise one-half turn, lean the key toward the outer edge of the box and lift up. To re-close the lid, reverse the process. Some types of meter box keys do not work in our meter boxes and will turn only about a quarter of a turn.

The 1" x 1/2" wedge-shaped valve will usually be on the street side of the meter. An arrow showing water flow direction will be stamped on top of the valve. Using a wrench (water shut-off wrench, crescent wrench, pipe wrench, or pliers), turn the valve 180 degrees clockwise. The water will be off when the arrow points away from the meter. To restore water service, turn the valve in the reverse direction.

If none of the options above work, the city can turn off your water at the meter during normal business hours. There is a $20 cost recovery charge, per trip. You may contact our office at 972-941-7105, Monday - Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Water Leaks

Find Out if You Have a Water Leak

Have you ever wondered if you have a water leak? You can use your water meter to help you find out. The only tool you need is a meter key to open the water meter box. If you do not have one, you can purchase one at most hardware stores.

Checking for a Leak at the Water Meter

When you open the water meter box, the meter should be in the center of the box in a level position. On occasion, you will find the meter tilted slightly. It still works fine, but it is harder to read the odometer.

If water is in the meter box, it does not mean that you have a leak in your water line. It usually comes from ground moisture due to rain or sprinkler systems. To be sure, you should dip the water out of the box. You may have to do this several times due to ground saturation.

If you notice water spewing from the meter or the meter connections (the nuts and bolts that connect the meter to the cut-of valve or your water line) call Utility Operations for repairs at 972-769-4160.

Checking for a Leak Beyond the Water Meter

Checking for a Leak Beyond the Water Meter If no leak is detected in the meter box, your next step is to look at the water meter register. You may have to wipe the register face off with a wet towel to see the entire meter face. Do not tamper with the electronic meter reading device. Dirt usually settles on the meter from month to month due to rain, irrigation and other moisture getting into the meter box.

Here’s where it gets a little complicated, but you can do it. Some of the numbers on your meter are part of the odometer and they move. One or two numbers to the right of the odometer are painted-on (fixed) zeroes and they tell you the units the water usage is being measured in.

One fixed zero tells you that the red dial is registering one gallon as it moves from one number to the next. The lines between numbers indicate a tenth of a gallon.

Two fixed zeros tell you that the red dial is registering ten gallons between each number. The lines between numbers indicate one gallon.

To detect a leak, turn off all water in the house and watch the red dial for movement. (Remember: If you have an icemaker or some other device that automatically turns water on, it will be detected at the water meter.)

Example: If the red dial moves two tenths of a gallon in one minute you are using one gallon of water every five minutes or 12 gallons of water per hour. If all water in the house is turned off, there should be no flow of water through the meter. If the red dial is continually moving forward, and all water is turned off in the house, you may be losing water by several methods.

Dripping Faucets are easily recognized. You will have a faucet that does not completely turn off, and you may hear an annoying "drip, drip, drip".

Leaking toilets are more difficult to detect. Water loss may be caused by leaking parts or an incorrect setting. You may not always hear the problem.

If the flapper valve in the toilet tank is not seating well, water will flow from the tank to the bowl and eventually down the drain as the bowl fills to a certain level. This problem can be detected by putting some food coloring into the tank. Wait a while and see if the water in the bowl has begun to change color. If so, the flapper valve is the problem. Check more than once. The flapper valve may seat properly some of the time, but not all of the time. This can make this type of water loss difficult to detect.

Another way that water loss can occur in a toilet is through the overflow in the tank. The overflow is the open pipe, usually located in the middle of the tank. If the float allows water to rise too high, water will go into the overflow pipe and down the drain. The best way to detect this is to take the top off the tank and see if water is at the top of the overflow pipe. If it is, the float may need to be adjusted.

Landscape irrigation problems can also result in water loss. These problems normally occur when sprinklers are on. There may be a break in the line or a malfunction in one of the sprinkler heads. Check to see if some parts of your lawn remain wet even when the sprinklers have not been on.

Remember: These are just suggested places to look for water loss first and is not intended to be all-inclusive