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Everything you need to know about water meters

Check out our comprehensive guide on water meters in the UK.

We delve into the intricacies of traditional water meters and the cutting-edge smart meter technology currently undergoing widespread deployment across the UK.

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What is a water meter?

A water meter is a device designed to gauge the quantity of water flowing from the water distribution system into a property connected to the public water supply.

In the UK, the majority of both residential and commercial properties are equipped with business water meters at the point where the main water supply line enters the property’s boundaries.

For commercial premises:

  • Business water charges are calculated based on the volume of water consumed by a property, as recorded by the water meter.
  • Commercial water suppliers monitor the water usage at the meter and bill accordingly.

The dial located on the front of a water meter records the volume of water that has passed through it since its installation.

How does a water meter work?

Within the meter, the flow of water sets in motion mechanical components that, in turn, rotate the front-facing dial. These water meters are meticulously calibrated to ensure that the front dial provides precise measurements for each cubic meter of water that flows through them. More contemporary water meters feature a digital display on the front, yet they rely on a comparable analogue mechanism behind the scenes.

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Water meters are commonly positioned outside of your business premises, where a water pipe links your premises to the local water and sewerage network.

Since water mains often run alongside roadways, a prevalent location for water meters is beneath the pavement adjacent to your property. You will typically find a dedicated water meter box designed for this purpose, resembling the following:

In the case of larger properties that require multiple water meters or have larger meter installations, these meters are probably situated within a designated plant room within the building. If you encounter challenges in pinpointing the exact location of your water meter, we recommend getting in touch with your business water supplier.

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How to read your water meter?

The dial on the meter will show a number indicating the amount of water consumed by the business premises in cubic meters since the meter’s installation.

Many meters feature two red numbers following the decimal point, but these aren’t considered in meter readings. This added precision isn’t required for billing or reporting purposes.

How often do you have to submit your water meter readings?

Your commercial water provider should schedule a meter reading every six months as standard practice.

Nevertheless, we strongly advise you to conduct and submit meter readings more frequently than this.

What are the benefits of submitting regular meter readings?

  • It ensures greater accuracy in your business water bills.
  • If your property has been unoccupied recently, it prevents your water supplier from continuing to bill you for water.
  • Regular readings assist in the early detection of water leaks.
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What to do if you don’t have a water meter?

If your business or home doesn’t have a water meter, your water supplier will bill you for water and wastewater services through one of two methods:

  1. Assessed charges: These charges are calculated by estimating a fixed water usage for your property each year, based on its type.
  2. Rateable value: This fee is determined by the rateable value of your property.

According to the Water Industry Act 1999, individuals can request a water meter, and the local water company is obligated to install it unless such installation is deemed impractical or excessively costly.

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Can I save water by installing a water meter?

Currently, only 43% of homes in England and Wales have water meters, but this number is slowly increasing.

For homes with water meters, the average annual water bill, including both water and sewerage charges, is £325, compared to £379 for those without meters. These savings are mainly because people tend to use water and wastewater rates more efficiently after getting a meter, reducing consumption by 9% to 20%.

If you’re already good at conserving water, getting a free meter can save money and lead to even lower bills. Plus, a water meter not only saves water but can also reduce your business energy bills. Using less hot water means less energy is needed to heat it, lowering energy bills and reducing your carbon footprint.

Can a water meter save you money?

Water meter bills are based on actual water usage rather than a fixed yearly charge linked to your property’s rateable value, which doesn’t consider household size or water usage.

Installing a water meter can be advantageous, especially for households with more bedrooms than occupants.

On average, a single-occupancy property uses about 65 cubic meters of water per year, with an additional 50 cubic meters per person for multi-occupancy homes. Actual usage varies based on factors like appliances and garden size. If you’re already conserving water and have efficient devices, you might benefit from a meter. Many business water suppliers offer calculators to help you decide.

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What is a smart water meter?

A smart meter functions similarly to a traditional water meter but with the added feature of wireless meter reading.

In the UK, a typical smart meter transmits the displayed figures to your business water supplier every 15 minutes and provides real-time water consumption data accessible through an online portal.

These smart water meters are increasingly adopted in the water industry because they offer a comprehensive view of property water usage and have algorithms to identify potential leaks or irregularities.

Explore our comprehensive guide to smart water meters.

hese hours, as well as some during the day, you could stand to save more by comparing standard deals to help you reduce business energy costs. This is because the amount you’d be paying for those regular daytime hours would be more expensive on an Economy 7 or 10 tariff.

What are the benefits of a smart water meter?

Installing smart meters for your business offers significant environmental and economic advantages:

Accurate billing

Your business water supplier uses smart meter data for precise invoicing, avoiding the inaccuracies of unnecessary water consumption and estimates.

Consumption benchmarking

For larger businesses with both water services to multiple properties, these meters offer a centralized portal to compare and analyze water usage for business customers, promoting data-driven efficiency improvements.

Save money

Identifying leaks early with these meters can save your business thousands in water charges associated with leaks.

Enhanced sustainability

These meters allow you to monitor the immediate impact of water-saving measures, contributing to a more, water efficient and sustainable business in a water-scarce UK.

Leak detection

These meters alert you to significant water usage spikes, helping you detect and address leaks promptly, and preventing property damage and costlier water charges.

Real-time data

These meters provide continuous access to online portals, enabling hour-by-hour analysis of water consumption.


These meters eliminate the need for manual meter readings, up water efficiency and streamline the billing process.

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Is it compulsory to have a smart water meter in your business?

Not at the moment. In the non-household sector, traditional water meters are still the norm, necessitating manual readings by both suppliers and customers.

While simplicity has its merits, the growing challenges of climate change and water scarcity demand data-driven solutions in our intricately connected world. Analogue water meters limit the ability of analysts, regulators, and your business water supplier to conduct in-depth data analysis, hindering their problem-solving capabilities.

To address this,business water suppliers have outlined plans to introduce smart meters to businesses in their areas, enabling insights into customer behaviour and leak reduction. While this initiative hasn’t commenced yet, smart meters will likely become mandatory shortly.

How to get a smart water meter for my business?

Unlike residential water providers, who offer free smart water meters upon request, certain business water suppliers only provide smart meters when you sign a contract with them.

This underscores the importance of obtaining a variety of quotes from numerous business water suppliers if you’re contemplating a change in your business water supply.

At Business Energy Comparison, we can compare business water suppliers and facilitate a seamless transition.

Are water meter readings used when you switch business water suppliers?

Certainly, when you switch business water suppliers, an initial water meter reading will be conducted.

This initial reading will be documented in the central water database and serves two primary purposes:

  1. Your previous business water supplier will use it to calculate your final bill.
  2. Your new business water supplier will use it as the starting point for your first bill.

It’s worth considering upgrading to a smart water meter during the switch. This upgrade simplifies tracking your business water usage and identifying any leaks or water issues.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are automatic meter readings?

AMR stands for Automatic Meter Reading, encompassing technology that automatically collects consumption data from water meters and sends it to a central database for billing, troubleshooting, and analysis.

What to do if your smart water meter is faulty?

If you have concerns about the accuracy of your water meter and suspect it might be providing incorrect readings, we recommend considering a water audit.

During a water audit, specialists will scrutinize your historical water consumption data and meter readings to assess whether there is an issue. A site visit will follow, allowing an expert to physically examine and test the meter.

Are water meters compulsory?

Water meter installations in households depend on location, as most water companies and wholesalers in the UK have the discretion to install them. In commercial properties, most have meters, while about 5% use unmetered water tariffs due to high meter installation costs. Household water meter adoption varies, with some areas implementing universal metering programs. Legally, a water network operator can mandate a meter if the house uses automatic watering, fills a pool or pond automatically, has a large bath, employs a softening unit, features a power shower, or is in a water-stressed area.