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Water Meter Frequently Asked Questions


1. How do I know how much water I am using?

Your monthly bill will show you how much water you used for the previous month. In addition, beginning June 1, 2009 your bill will include your monthly usage during the previous 12 months for comparison. You can also read your water meter periodically and record the reading and date. For information on how to read your meter see FAQ #6.

2. I would like to monitor my water meter, how can I do that?

You can periodically read your meter, record the reading and date, and then subtract the previous reading to determine your usage over that period of time. The District also offers the use of a remote reading device that we can lend to you at no cost for up to two weeks. The device is programmed to read your meter by radio and can be placed somewhere in your house or garage in a convenient location. You can retrieve your meter reads as often as you like without having to access your water box. The District will program, deliver and set up the device for you. We will collect a $75 deposit at the time of set up. If you wish to keep the device, we will simply keep your deposit to purchase a replacement unit for our inventory.

3. How can I estimate what my water bill will be?

Beginning June 1, 2009 your monthly bill will have a breakdown of your water consumption and base rate charges. In addition, you can visit the District's water rate calculator on our website at:

4. How can I tell how much water my irrigation system is using?

If you are familiar with how to read your water meter (see FAQ #6), then try this. Open the lid and make your meter register visible. Activate one of your irrigation zones, and return to the meter. Wait a couple of minutes to insure your sprinklers are free from air and steady. Use a stopwatch to time how many gallons are being used in one minute. You can do this by starting your stopwatch when the large pointer on the meter dial passes 0. When your timer reaches one minute, immediately check the position of the pointer. If the pointer started at 0 and ended up at 6, then that irrigation zone is using 6 gallons per minute. If the pointer passed 0 again before one minute was up, it would be 10 gallons, plus the number the pointer was at when one minute is up. Once you establish how many gallons per minute that zone is using, check to see how many minutes that zone is running, multiply the number of minutes and the number of gallons per minute observed above. This will give you the total gallons used for that particular zone per cycle. Repeat for all of the remaining zones to determine how much water one full irrigation cycle uses. Multiple this by the number of days per month your irrigation is running to determine how much water will be used by irrigation each month. Refer to FAQ # 3 to see what the cost for this water will be.

5. How do I check for water leaks?

Even if you don't see any obvious leaks around the house, it is helpful to occasionally check for leaks using your meter. The best time to do this is when your household has few people around and you can leave or not use any water for about an hour or more. First, locate your meter box, open it up and view your meter register. Walk through your house and outside areas and make sure nothing is leaking, or using any water, and turn off all hose bibs, etc. If you are confident there is no water use return to your meter and check the reading. Record the meter odometer reading and record the location of the big red pointer. Make sure until you return to read the meter that nobody uses any water indoors or out. Return to your meter after at least an hour and perform the same readings as above. If pointer did not move and the numbers on the odometer are the same, you do not have a leak. If the pointer or odometer has advanced, you may have a potential leak. The next step is to isolate where the leak might be. If you have a shutoff valve under your house, the next step is to shutoff the valve under the house and perform the same test as above. If the meter continues to advance, your leak is most likely somewhere between the meter box and your shutoff valve. If the meter stops advancing, the leak is most likely somewhere in your house.

6. How do I read my water meter?

Find your meter box, which is typically located in the front of your property near one of the side property lines with your neighbor. Homes in the Highlands subdivision may have their boxes located in the easement behind the home. The meter box will typically be a rectangular concrete box with a concrete/cast iron lid marked “water”. In some areas the box may be identified by a round 18” diameter cast iron lid marked “ water meter.” The TCPUD maintains records of your water box location and can be contacted for further assistance if you cannot find your box. Carefully remove the water box lid using a large screwdriver or other tool. Please take great care in not damaging the meter, transmitter or associated wires. Those with the 18” diameter round meter box must carefully remove the bracket holding the transmitters and then remove the large green foam plug to view the meters. These items must be properly replaced to avoid freeze damage or improper operation.

Once you have the box open you will see the top of the meter, and then lift the protective cover to expose the meter face. On the face of the meter you will see a large dial, a small red star wheel and a set of numbers similar to a cars odometer. The large dial typically reads gallons, the small star wheel is used to detect leaks and minor usage, and the odometer reads total gallons used. Read the odometer left to right, including the fixed zero on the far right. This is your total gallons used. Record the reading and then compare it to your latest bill, or re-read your meter within the next day or two to determine your daily consumption. If you suspect you have a leak, you will notice constant or intermittent movement in the small red star wheel. Inspect all your fixtures, toilets, faucets, hose bibs and irrigation and isolate or repair as appropriate. If the star wheel continues to move, you may have a leak somewhere underground.

7. How do I know if my meter is accurate?

Today's modern meters are extremely accurate. Most meter inaccuracies are due to age and wear and yield a reading that is less than what was actually used. If you suspect your meter reading is too high, there are a few things to check. Take your last monthly bill and look at the current meter reading on the bill. Compare it to your meter read today. (See FAQ #6 in how to read your meter). If today's meter read is less than what your bill says, please contact us to investigate. If there are two meters in your meter box, run a hose bib at your house to observe which meter is yours. You can also check your meter accuracy by simply running water until your meter pointer is at zero. Insuring that nothing else is using water in the house , accurately fill a one or two gallon container and return to your meter to see if it the pointer moved the appropriate amount. Each number on the clock face of the meter dial represents one gallon. If you accurately dispensed one gallon, the pointer should have incremented by approximately one gallon.

8. My bill says I have a potential leak, what do I do?

The first thing to do is to check your water meter for any indications of a leak. See FAQ #5 and #6. Check our website link for a leak repair checklist: . If you determine your leak is inside your home, check all of your toilets, faucets, showers and under your home for any leaks. If you determine the leak is outdoors, check your irrigation, and remote hose bibs. If you do not find anything, you may have a leak underground. Contact a local licensed plumber to investigate.

9. I hear water running in my pipes, what do I do?

You may have a potential leak somewhere on your property. Perform the steps in FAQ #5 and #8.

10. I need to find my water box, where is it located?

Your meter box is typically located in the front of your property near one of the side property lines with your neighbor. Homes in the Highlands subdivision may have their boxes located in the easement behind the home. The meter box will typically be a rectangular concrete box with a concrete/cast iron lid marked “water”. In some areas the box may be identified by a round 18” diameter cast iron lid marked “water meter.” The TCPUD maintains records of your water box location and can be contacted for further assistance if you cannot find your box.

Water Conservation Frequently Asked Questions  

1. How much water use is normal indoors?

According to the American Water Works Association, before implementing basic water conservation techniques, the average indoor use is approximately 60 to 70 gallons per day per person. That translates into approximately 3,600 to 4,200 gallons per month for two people or 7,200 to 8,400 gallons per month for a family of four. Simple conservation measures can typically result in a 15-20 percent reduction in this number. Please see FAQ #3 for more information.

2. How much water use is normal outdoors?

It is extremely difficult to determine how much outdoor water use is normal. It varies greatly depending on amount of turf, types of plants, type of irrigation system, soil type and weather. There are many resources on the internet to assist you with proper landscape maintenance. Also you may contact any qualified landscape contractor in the area for further assistance .

3. What can I do to conserve water indoors?

Check your toilets for leaks
Leaking toilets make up more than 75% of the total indoor water leaks in the average home. Put a little food coloring in your toilet tank. If, without flushing, the color begins to appear in the bowl within 30 minutes, you have a leak that should be repaired immediately. Most replacement parts are inexpensive and easy to install.

Don't use the toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket
Every time you flush a cigarette butt, facial tissue or other small bit of trash, several gallons of water is wasted.

Put plastic bottles or float booster in your toilet tank
To cut down on water waste, put an inch or two of sand or pebbles inside each of two plastic bottles to weigh them down. Fill the bottles with water, screw the lids on, and put them in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanisms, or buy an inexpensive tank bank or float booster. This may save ten or more gallons of water per day. Be sure enough water remains in the tank so it will flush properly. For new installations, consider buying "low flush" toilets, which use 1 to 2 gallons per flush instead of the usual 3 to 5 gallons.

Install a hot water recirculation system and/or insulate your hot water pipes.
Instead of running the hot water and waiting for it to get hot, install a hot water recirculation system. Hot water will always be available immediately. It saves water as well as the cost of heating the water. It's easy and inexpensive to insulate your water pipes with pre-slit foam pipe insulation. You'll get hot water faster plus avoid wasting water while it heats up.

Install water-saving shower heads and low-flow faucet aerators
Inexpensive water-saving shower heads or restrictors are easy for the homeowner to install. Also, long, hot showers can use five to ten gallons every unneeded minute. Limit your showers to the time it takes to soap up, wash down and rinse off. Also, all household faucets should be fit with aerators. This single best home water conservation method is also the cheapest!

Take shorter showers.
One way to cut down on water use is to turn off the shower after soaping up, then turn it back on to rinse. With a low flow shower head, a four-minute shower uses approximately 10-12 gallons of water.

Turn off the water after you wet your toothbrush
There is no need to keep the water running while brushing your teeth. Just wet your brush and fill a glass for mouth rinsing.

Rinse your razor in the sink
Fill the sink with a few inches of warm water. This will rinse your razor just as well as running water, with far less waste of water.


Check faucets and pipes for leaks
A small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 20 gallons of water per day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons.

Use your dishwasher and clothes washer for only full loads
Automatic dishwashers and clothes washers should be fully loaded for optimum water conservation. Most makers of dishwashing soap recommend not pre-rinsing dishes which is a big water savings. With clothes washers, avoid the permanent press cycle, which uses an added 5 gallons for the extra rinse. For partial loads, adjust water levels to match the size of the load. Replace old clothes washers. New Energy Star rated washers use 35 - 50% less water and 50% less energy per load. If you're in the market for a new clothes washer, consider buying a water-saving frontload washer.

Minimize use of kitchen sink garbage disposal units
Garbage disposals require lots of water to operate properly, and also add considerably to the volume of solids into a sewer system which can lead to maintenance problems. Start a compost pile or scrape plates into the garbage as an alternate method of disposing food waste.

When washing dishes by hand, don't leave the water running for rinsing
If you have a double-basin, fill one with soapy water and one with rinse water. If you have a single-basin sink, gather washed dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a spray device or a panful of hot water. If using a dishwasher, there is usually no need to pre-rinse the dishes.

Keep a bottle of drinking water in the fridge
Running tap water to cool it off for drinking water is wasteful.

4. What can I do to save water outdoors?

Water your lawn only when it needs it
A good way to see if your lawn needs watering is to step on the grass. If it springs back up when you move, it doesn't need water. If it stays flat, the lawn is ready for watering. Letting the grass grow taller (to 3") will also promote water retention in the soil.

Water during the early parts of the day; avoid watering when it's windy
Early morning is generally better than dusk since it helps prevent the growth of fungus. Early watering, and late watering, also reduce water loss to evaporation. Try not to water when it's windy - wind can blow sprinklers off target and speed evaporation.

Add organic matter and use efficient watering systems for shrubs, flower beds and lawns
Adding organic material to your soil will help increase its absorption and water retention. Areas which are already planted can be 'top dressed' with compost or organic matter. You can greatly reduce the amount of water used for shrubs, beds and lawns with strategic placement of soaker hoses , rain barrel water catchment systems and simple drip-irrigation systems . A watering meter can be easily added to your hose to monitor water usage to required needs. Avoid over-watering plants and shrubs, as this can actually diminish plant health and cause yellowing of the leaves. For long-term water savings, consider adding moisture-retaining lassenite to your lawn and shrub beds.

Plant drought-resistant shrubs and plants
Many beautiful shrubs and plants thrive with far less watering than other species. Replace herbaceous perennial borders with native plants. Native plants will use less water and be more resistant to local plant diseases. Consider applying the principles of xeriscape for a low-maintenance, drought resistant yard. Plant slopes with plants that will retain water and help reduce runoff.

Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants
Mulch will slow evaporation of moisture while discouraging weed growth. Adding 2 - 4 inches of organic material such as compost or bark mulch will increase the ability of the soil to retain moisture. For information about different mulch materials and their best use, click here .

Don't water the gutter

Position your sprinklers so water lands on the lawn or garden, not on paved areas. Also, avoid watering on windy days.

Don't run the hose while washing your car

Clean the car using a pail of soapy water. Use an automatic shutoff spray nozzle when rinsing for more efficient use of water.

Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks

Check for leaks in pipes, hoses, faucets and couplings
Leaks outside the house may not seem as bad since they're not as visible. But they can be just as wasteful as leaks indoors. Check frequently to keep them drip-free. Use hose washers at spigots and hose connections to eliminate leaks.

5. I like to water my yard to keep the threat of fire down, is that a good idea?

Simply watering your yard is not the answer to protecting your home from a wildfire. To reduce the fire risk around your home, use basic defensible space techniques. For more information on Defensible Space, please contact your local fire protection district or visit the following website:

7. How much water does a lawn need?

A well maintained lawn typically requires an average of 1-inch of water per week. This is approximately 65 gallons per week per 100 square feet of lawn. The cooler spring and fall will require less than this and mid-summer will typically require a little more. Don't over irrigate just too green up isolated dry spots. If the majority of your lawn is getting enough water, consider hand watering dry spots versus increasing irrigation times for the whole lawn. Thoroughly rake or dethatch your lawn every spring to remove dead grass. Aerate annually to relieve soil compaction and allow water and oxygen to penetrate into the root zone as well as allowing roots to penetrate deeper as well. Do not irrigate between the hours of 8:00 AM and 11:00 PM. Do not irrigate turf every day. Visit the following website for more information:

8. How often should I water my lawn or landscaping?

Only irrigate three to four times per week for longer periods. This will allow water to saturate deeper and promote deeper root depths. Deeper root depths provide better protection from heat stress, and disease, and greatly improve the appearance of a plants and lawn.

9. What kind of landscaping can I do that won't use a lot of water?

Many beautiful shrubs and plants thrive with far less watering than other species. Native plants will use less water and be more resistant to local plant diseases. Consider applying the principles of xeriscape for a low-maintenance, drought resistant yard. Plant slopes with plants that will retain water and help reduce runoff. Contact your local nurseries for more information on the types of landscapes and plants that use less water. There are many qualified local landscape contractors who can assist you with design and installation of water friendly landscape designs.

Below are some helpful FAQs:

    Who is my water provider?
    There are several different water providers within the TCPUD service area. Please refer to the Water Service Area Map located in the maps link,on the general tab to determine who your water provider is.

    Where does my water come from?
    Currently all water provided by the TCPUD comes from deep groundwater wells located in various locations in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

    Does the TCPUD add any chemicals to the water?
    Yes, chlorine, in the form of 12.5% sodium hypochlorite (liquid bleach) is added to most TCPUD water sources. This is added to maintain a safety barrier for the customer in the unlikely event some type of pathogenic organism contamination occurs. Although the chlorine is often noticeable by taste and smell, we maintain very low chlorine residuals (0.2 to 0.3 parts per million) to provide an adequate safety barrier while minimizing the effect on the taste and odor of the water. Occasionally, higher levels of chlorine are required during system maintenance, however these levels should return to normal within 2-48 hours, and do not pose a health threat.

    Does the TCPUD add fluoride to my water?
    Currently the TCPUD does NOT add fluoride to its drinking water.

    My water pressure is too low, can you increase it?
    The TCPUD water system pressure is based on elevation change between the water storage tank and the point of delivery. In some instances homes with an elevation close to that of the tank (within 80 feet) will have normal pressure of 35 psi or less, with even less pressure in upper level facilities. This is normal and for the most part can't be improved. In some cases customers have installed small booster pumps in their home to increase the operating pressure. If your pressure has decreased over time and you suspect a problem please call the TCPUD for assistance.

    How do I winterize the water system in my house?
    The most convenient and popular way to winterize your home is by the customer installing a stop and drain valve in a location accessible year round. This valve allows the customer to conveniently shut off their water, and when closed allows the internal house piping to drain out, preventing freezing pipes in cold temperatures. In addition it provides the customer an easy location to shut off their water for repairs to their plumbing, without having to call out the TCPUD for a water turn off/on, which has a service charge minimum of $35.00. Running bleeders to prevent frozen pipes is NOT an acceptable practice, and is an enforceable violation of the TCPUD Ordinance No. 185. Contact a local plumber for more information on stop and drain valves.

    Where is my water meter/shutoff box located?
    The location of the customers water meter/shutoff box varies, but is typically located at one of the front property corners. Many areas in the Highlands subdivision have their water meter/shutoff box located behind their homes within well-defined public utility easements.

    How can I locate my water service box in the winter time?
    We recommend that you stake or place a snow pole by your box with a blue mark or blue tape on the top of the pole. A good way to do this is place the pole out when you snow pole your driveway.

    Who is responsible for locating and maintaining my water meter/shutoff box and the water line from the box to the house?
    The customer is responsible for locating and maintaining the water meter/shutoff box and the water line from the box to the house. The TCPUD may, at the request of the customer, field locate water lines and facilities if TCPUD personnel and equipment are available. The customer shall reimburse the District a standard service charge plus any additional charges for this request. When the District record drawings do not show locations for water services, the District will locate and identify services, including field locations, at no expense to the customer.

    What is the TCPUD responsible for?
    The TCPUD is responsible for maintenance and repair of all water mains and service extensions. The service extensions begins at the distribution main and ends at the curb stop or valve located on the street or easement side of the service box.

    What does the TCPUD do to ensure that my drinking water is safe?
    All of the TCPUD water sources and distribution systems are operated in compliance with the California Safe Drinking Water Act. These regulations provide all the guidelines to ensure the customer receives water that is safe and pleasant for consumption. These regulations include a water quality monitoring schedule which requires the TCPUD to perform periodic sampling of the water to ensure its safety and quality. Results of this sampling are provided to the customer on an annual basis in a report know as the Consumer Confidence Report. For more specific questions please contact the TCPUD.

    Where does the sewer flow from my house end up?
    Sewage collected from the North and West shores converge in Tahoe City and flow in a 36" pipe along the Truckee River corridor to the Tahoe-Truckee Sanitation Agency (TTSA) wastewater treatment plant located on the eastern side of Truckee.

    Why do I get two sewer bills?
    You are billed by the TCPUD for sewer collection costs, and by TTSA for sewer treatment costs separately.

    What types of waste or household items should or should not be disposed of in the sewer system?
    Basically, only domestic wastes from sinks, showers, toilets, laundry facilities and dishwasher should be put into the sewer system. Things that should NEVER be put into the sewer system include: paper towels, sanitary napkins, diapers, egg shells, cooking oils, cooking fat, cooking grease, un-shredded food materials, oils, flammable liquids, toxic liquids/substances, acidic substances/liquids, paints, kitty litter, dirt, rocks, pebbles, sand, clothing materials, or any other solid which may impede flow in the sewer lines.

    My sewer backed up, and the plumber who came out and cleared it said I have roots in my line. What can I do about that?
    It is important to ask the plumber to inform you of approximately where the root blockage was. If the blockage occurred on the house sewer service line between the property line and the home, it is the customers responsibility to repair. If the blockage appears to be between the property line and the street, please notify the TCPUD and we will investigate if repairs are necessary.

    Why should fats, oil or grease NOT be put into the sewer system?
    Once these liquids enter the drain of your sink or dishwasher they immediately begin to cool and solidify. Depending on how fast the cool, the grease may solidify in your house service line or in the TCPUD sewer main. Once solidified, the grease can accumulate to the point of causing a blockage in the sewer line, which can back up into your home or cause a backup in the sewer main possibly resulting in a costly and damaging sewer spill.

    How do I keep cooking grease, fats and oils from going down the drain?
    There are some real simple ways to deal with cooking and food fats, oil and grease. Drain excess fats from cooking into a used or empty glass jar or soup can. If not full, save the can in the freezer for the next time, or simply throw the container into the garbage. For pots, pans and dishes, dry wipe them with a paper towel prior to rinsing, washing, or placing in the dishwasher. The paper towel can then be thrown into the garbage. These procedures will greatly reduce the amount of grease, fats and oils, that you discharge into the sewer system.

    Where are my sewer cleanouts located?
    Typically, there are two cleanouts. One is located within 5 feet of the property line, and the other within 5 feet of the foundation line. Maintenance, and keeping cleanout boxes exposed is the customers responsibility. It is a good idea to snow stake your cleanouts in the winter time and make sure the box is exposed and visible in the spring. If you have trouble locating your cleanouts, the TCPUD may be able to provide you with a map, which may assist you.

    I have a sewer easement on my property, what does this mean?
    Sewer line easements allow the TCPUD to operate and maintain sewer facilities on property other than state or county right of ways. This easement area is to remain free from the erection or placement of any structures such as fences, outbuildings and decorative rocks. In addition, landscaping in these areas is highly discouraged. The TCPUD will not be responsible for damage to any structures or landscaping which are located within the easement boundaries, should access for operation, maintenance or repair be required.

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