Tom Melhuish 4 min read

A guide to water meters: Everything you need to know.

Here’s our guide to water meters – both old fashioned business water meters and the upgrades that can make your meter smarter.

What is a water meter?

A water meter is a device fitted to most business properties in the UK. Your business water supplier uses the water meter to measure how much water is being used by your business, so they know how much to charge.

The idea of a water meter is the same as electricity and gas meters that will also be present at your property. The dial on the front of a water meter measures the volume of water passed through it since it was installed.

How does a water meter work?

Most water meters use a positive displacement chamber to measure the volume of water passing through them which rotates the dial on the device’s front. Water meters are configured so that the front dial will accurately count every cubic meter of water that passes through.

Instead, some more modern meters have a digital dial on the front but function and are read exactly in the same way.

Where can I find my water meter?

For small businesses, where the size of the meter is smaller, it is likely to be inside of your property near to where your mains water pipe enters your building.

If not, the best place to try is just outside the building, where a water meter may be inside a purpose-built underground meter box.

You’ll be looking for something like this:

Find My Water Meter

Larger properties with more than one water meter or larger meters are likely to be installed in a purpose-built plant room somewhere inside the building.

If you are still having difficulty locating your water meter, it’s worth contacting your business water supplier, who may be able to look up your meter on the central water market database.

The central database records where meters were first installed; however, these details are often sketchy.

How do I take a water meter reading?

A water meter reading is completed by recording the numbers on your water meter in meters cubed. Most meters have two red numbers representing figures after the decimal point; these are not recorded in a meter read.

Here’s how it works:

Water Meter

The meter reading above would be recorded as “00216”.

A water meter reading is submitted on your water supplier’s website, where you will provide the date the water meter reading is taken.

Businesses in the UK are charged for water used using a volumetric rate – a specific cost per meter cubed that your water meter records.

How often are water meter readings taken?

Your business water supplier should arrange for a meter reading to be taken every six months.
However, we recommend that you take and submit meter readings more regularly than this. The advantage of taking regular meter readings are:

  • Your business water bills will be more accurate
  • If your property has recently been vacant, it will stop your water supplier from continuing to charge you for water
  • It will help you detect water leaks

What is a smart water meter?

A smart meter is an old fashioned water meter that has the additional ability to transmit a meter reading wirelessly. At intervals of 15 minutes, the smart meter will electronically send the figures displayed on the front of the meter. The water meter readings will be received by your supplier and can be accessed through an online portal to see your latest water consumption.

What does AMR stand for?

AMR stands for Automatic Meter Reading. To upgrade a water meter to a smart meter, an AMR device is attached to the top of the meter. The AMR device will take readings from the water meter every 15 minutes and transmit these. The AMR device is also known as a data logger.

It usually takes less than an hour to install an AMR and upgrade your smart meter. Even better, this usually doesn’t require any interruption to your water supply.

What are the benefits of having a smart water meter?

There are significant benefits, both environmentally and economically, in installing smart meters at your business. The main benefits are:

  • Real-time water consumption data – Without a smart meter, it is challenging to understand how much water your business consumes. With a smart meter, you will have access to an online portal that allows you to analyse water consumption hour by hour.
  • Water usage alerts – Water leaks are awfully common but easily detected with a smart water meter. A smart meter portal can alert you to significant increases in water usage, which indicate a water leak, allowing you to fix the problem and avoid substantial property damage.
  • Save money – Water suppliers charge businesses for every cubic meter of water they consume, even if a leak causes this consumption. Detecting a leak early with a smart meter can save your business thousands by preventing the water charges associated with a leak.
  • Save time – We recommend that businesses without smart meters regularly take water meter readings to allow their business water suppliers to invoice accurately. A smart meter takes away this hassle as the meter readings will get to the water supplier immediately.
  • Improve your business sustainability – Businesses can cheaply install water saving devices. With a smart meter, you can immediately observe how your water-saving measures have reduced water consumption. Water is scarce in the UK, so even small reductions in consumption help to make your business more sustainable.
  • Accurate business water supplier bills – The data from a smart water meter is used by your business water supplier to invoice your business accurately. No more suffering from water supplier consumption estimates that can often lead to inaccurately expensive water bills.
  • Consumption benchmarking – Larger businesses can easily compare the water usage from different properties on a single, smart meter portal. This will give you the information to reduce water wastage in your business and incentivise best practices.

Is a smart water meter for my business compulsory?

No, not currently. In the non-household market, most businesses have a water meter installed so water usage can be tracked using manual water meter readings.

To combat the effects of climate change and water scarcity, wholesalers have been given objectives by the regulators to reduce regional water consumption.

To meet these objectives, some wholesalers have published plans to roll out smart meters to businesses in their region to provide customer behaviour insight and reduce leakage. This has not yet started, but smart meters could soon become compulsory.

Can you get a smart meter for water?

Yes, for businesses in Britain, a water meter can be easily upgraded to a smart meter using an automated meter reading device.

How to get a smart water meter for my business?

We recommend that your business arranges fitting smart water meters directly with your business water supplier. A business water supplier will be able to use this data for your water bills and will be able to give you access to the water data through an online portal.

To see what business water suppliers can help your business with the roll-out of smart meters, see our up to date guides on business suppliers:

The best way to benefit from smart meters is to switch all your business properties to a single water supplier. This means that you can see all your water consumption in one place.

By switching water suppliers, your business can also benefit from:

  • Significant savings in your overall water costs by moving to a more competitive tariff
  • Improved customer services
  • Receive all your bill from just one supplier in a consolidated bill

Ready to see if you can benefit from switching water suppliers? Start by comparing your business water tariffs to others available on the market with AquaSwitch’s free comparison service.