Water meter confusion

in Water bills
14 replies 1.7K views
Hi. Apologies in advance for the essay!

I moved into my new flat on 05/12/14 and notified South West Water, who told me that according to their records, the hatch to the meter is "on pavement near front door, meter is on the far left". Between the move and working overtime in the run-up to Christmas, I wasn't keen on hunting for the meter to provide an opening read so SWW sent out someone to take a read. I received a bill stating that my opening read was 902 but there was nothing to pay as the government contribution to my bill covered the standing charge.

A a hour ago I went out to find my meter in order to provide an updated reading in order to pay my bill -- had a good idea of where it was but was not impressed to find the hatch is in overgrown grass and when I managed to get it open, all the meters were caked in grime :mad: (No idea how they got so filthy since they're in a dry brick box!) Found my meter, checked the serial number, looked at the reading.

Blinked. Looked again.

903 :eek:

In the 38 days since the meter was read, I have apparently used one cubic metre of water. I'll admit to being away from my flat for 15 of those days, but I fail to understand how the most expensive water company in the UK charges £2 to supply water for one person and three cats for five weeks.

There are six meters in total. As follows, they read:

903 -- 620 -- 646 -- 562 -- 007 -- 1070

Obviously, all the meters in the middle are definitely not mine. However, I think I can understand how a mis-read COULD have been made. When I read the meters, I was looking at the numbers the right way up (so a 9 looks like a 9, not a 6) and found my meter by using the far left. If SWW had opened the hatch and then looked at the meters upside down, found the far left THEN walked around to read the number the right way up (essentially reading the far right meter), it could explain how the 902 number appeared.

SWW charge 2.0494 for one cubic metre but for simplicity's sake, I'll say £2 in my calculations and estimate the bill to be slightly higher than the total.

1070 - 902 = 168 cubic metres of water used in the last 5 weeks.
1 cubic metre of water = £2, so 168 x 2 = £336 :eek:

The bill states clearly that SWW have read the meter and 902 was the read on 15/12 so either:

#1. I have a faulty meter that seems to be vastly undercharging me.

#2. A mis-read occurred and the wrong meter was read, however if that did happen then judging from my neighbour's usage, they're either taking several baths a day or have a seriously bad leakage somewhere.

#3. I use surprisingly less water than I had anticipated.

I've never had a water meter before (this is my first flat, previously lived with my mum who pays an assessed charge as a meter can't be fitted at her house) so I'm unsure of which is the most likely option. If anyone could give some advice/insight into the situation, I'd really appreciate it :)
SPC #080


  • AxledAxled Forumite
    92 Posts
    I think it would depend on how often you bathe your cats. If you are worried then maybe get the water company to clarify, or to check your meter.
  • matelodavematelodave Forumite
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    Are you absolutely sure that it's your meter. Try turning the tap on and making sure it registers and then turning it off to make sure it stops.

    If there's a stopvalve associated with it, try turning it off and making sure that it's your water supply that stops.

    If you are then convinced that it's your meter I suggest you read it monthly to ensure that it is at least recording and to make sure that you don't have any leaks.

    I used to read mine monthly and our average was about 5.5cu.m/month. Two years ago came back from holiday and found that 40 cu.m had gone through it in a month. The underground pipe from the meter to the house had split. I now read it weekly.
    Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers
  • MiamiMiami Forumite
    70 Posts
    It's definitely my meter as the serial number matches the one I was provided with by South West Water. I'm not familiar with meters as this is the first one I've had but I've just had a rather long conversation with SWW. I explained that my meter was reading 903 despite SWW reading it as 902 on 15/12 and the man I spoke to looked at the computer and said that as my meter was over 15 years old it's most probably the meter under-recording due to age. A metering engineer will be out within 20 days to exchange the meter for a brand new one, they've updated the description of the meter location and have set me up on monthly payments for the average cost of single person use. When I get my March bill (which will be estimated) I'll have to provide them with an updated read and then they'll adjust the payment amount to reflect my actual usage. They've also told me that as the failure is their fault, I won't be charged for the water I've used since moving into my flat until when they exchange the meter. :D On top of that, they're sending me a hippo to reduce water waste when flushing -- timed my flush and discovered it was a whopping 14 seconds :eek:

    I definitely plan on keeping an eye on the meter reads. I have a notebook that I've started to fill with electricity reads and dates and will be hunting out another notebook to use for water meter reads. Really hope I don't have any leaks though -- I'm on the top floor and I don't think my downstairs neighbour would be very happy to have water pouring through their ceiling :p Sorry to hear about your leak though -- hope all was sorted in the end!
    SPC #080
  • edited 22 January 2015 at 5:26PM
    matelodavematelodave Forumite
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    edited 22 January 2015 at 5:26PM
    No problem, it all got sorted but I wouldn't have known about it until I got a ginormous bill or the drive had collapsed if I hadn't been doing regular reads and recognised that something wasn't right.

    Anglian Water credited me with the lost 40cu.m and my insurance company sorted out the repair

    It's by getting a feel for what you are using, both water, electricity and even gas that you can see when something is going wrong, hopefully before it's cost a lot of money or caused a lot of damage. So it's worth keeping your own records to save any future problems with billing etc

    As you've got a meter it's also worth making sure you minimise your consumption by taking shorter showers or shallower baths, fitting flow restrictors on the taps and shower (many water companies give these away as well). Only use your washing machine and dishwasher when they are full and don't let taps run when rinsing, washing or cleaning your teeth. Only fill the kettle with as much as you need.

    All these will not only save you water but will save energy as well as you won't have to heat as much.
    Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers
  • edited 22 January 2015 at 6:03PM
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    edited 22 January 2015 at 6:03PM
    Hi Miami - your ONE cubic metre usage does not surprise me at all,
    I had a meter installed, and hardly use any each quarter, so the SWW gov't rebate of £12.50 each quarter easily covers my usage (until 2020) - but then I am not washing THREE cats in the shower !!
    This is not an admission that I am in anyway unclean, by the way :)

    Matelot, you were VERY lucky to get a rebate for the 40 cu.m lost FROM the meter TO the house, I always thought that would be the customer's responsibility....
    16 x Enhance 250w panels + SolarEdge Inverter + TREES :(
  • CardewCardew Forumite
    29K Posts
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    DREKLY wrote: »

    Matelot, you were VERY lucky to get a rebate for the 40 cu.m lost FROM the meter TO the house, I always thought that would be the customer's responsibility....

    It is the customer's responsibility.

    However most(all?) water companies will attempt a repair as a one-off goodwill measure and apply a credit for the estimate of water lost.
  • edited 22 January 2015 at 8:15PM
    Norman_CastleNorman_Castle Forumite
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    edited 22 January 2015 at 8:15PM
    If the meter read 902.001 and now reads 903.999 you will be charged for 1 cubic meter but have used almost 2. This is for 23 days. Calculating usage over 23 days will only be accurate if you use cubic litres.
    Presumably you'll need to add waste water, surface water drainage and standing charges to estimate your annual total water bill.
  • MiamiMiami Forumite
    70 Posts
    That's possible, but I have no idea what the red numbers said on the 15/12 meter read and there was mud on the red numbers when I read on 22/01. Didn't think I needed to make a note of them as them as the bill only needs the black numbers but will do so in future.

    To all the people making comments about the cats: the reason I mentioned them is because every two or three days I thoroughly wash and rinse two litter trays before putting fresh litter in, fill up their drinking water daily (sometimes multiple times a day if it's warm) and clean the kitchen and bathroom surfaces and floors more often than I'd need to if I didn't have any pets. Obviously all of that adds up over the course of five weeks and that doesn't include my own usage, so while it might be possible for one person to frugally use 1 cubic metre in that time, it isn't for me. Also, while I was away, I had family member visited my flat to feed and water the cats. While they were there, they gave the cats water, washed up the cat food bowls and washed the litter trays, thus using water while I was away from the property.

    That's what I was trying to explain.

    Do flats have an external stopcock and if so, where are they normally found? I've just seen people moving into a flat that I thought was occupied so I think it might be a good idea to check they haven't put my meter on the empty flat's pipe :eek:
    SPC #080
  • matelodavematelodave Forumite
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    That's what my post above was suggesting.

    Although you've been told your serial number and its the same as the one on the meter that you've found and even the one on the bill is it actually the one that's connected to your house/flat.

    It's quite common, especially with flats which have several meters close together for them to be allocated to the wrong flat. So, it is worth checking that it's you meter that registers when you are using water and that it doesn't when you aren't.
    Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers
  • MiamiMiami Forumite
    70 Posts
    I was thinking something along the lines of, "but the meter was installed in 1998 and it's now 2015, surely a mix-up would have been picked up by now?" :p

    My flat was empty for six months before I moved in, but the previous tenant never gave SWW a final reading so I can't see if there's been usage during those 6 months (which would suggest a neighbour's flat using water) :( I might ask SWW what their last actual read prior to 15/12 was and see if it sounds like a realistic number for the amount of time, the problem is they might not tell me because I wasn't the tenant at the time? :think:
    SPC #080
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