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How Meter Readers Read Your Meters

Take a look inside your water meter box. You may discover piles of dirt, standing water, plants, cobwebs, and more. With all these obstacles, can a meter reader can actually read your meter well enough to make sure the bi-monthly bills you receive accurate? The short answer is: yes!

Seattle Public Utilities’ 23 meter readers cover 617 meter reading routes across Seattle and around King County, completing a total of 1.1 million reads each year. Their job is to ensure that each residential water meter is read 6 times per year in order to provide timely and accurate water bills to SPU customers.

Tricks of the Trade
Each meter reader carries a variety of tools to help them access the water meter dial long enough to get an accurate read. Here are a few of the most common obstacles they face, and the tools they use to overcome them:

A meter box full of dirt
Frequently, when a meter reader opens a meter box lid, they are greeted by a pile of dirt. A small shovel is all they need to get a peek at the meter dial.







A meter box full of water
When it rains, some meter boxes can fill up with water. Meter readers carry a clear plastic tube, open on one end, which they stick down into the water to view the meter dial.





A scratched dial cover
After years underground, the clear cover of a water meter dial can become cloudy with scratches and dirt. A quick spray with water gives the meter reader a clear view of the numbers on the dial.




Everything from blackberry bushes to parked cars can make it hard to access your meter. Meter readers carry pruners to tackle plant overgrowth, but some obstructions can’t be overcome.  In that case, keep an eye out—they’ll leave you a note! 









Want to learn more? Watch our video on SPU meter reading.