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How to turn off your water main in an emergency

The ability to locate your water main swiftly and then turn it off could help you avert horrible waterburst damage to your home.

A pipe bursts in your home in the middle of the night. You know you should switch off the water main tap immediately – but where exactly is it?

Step one – Find your water main tap

The humble water meter often escapes notice, but there is huge value in your capacity to locate and access it quickly in an emergency situation.

  • In modern suburban homes it is most commonly inside the front boundary fence.
  • In older properties such as a terrace or semi, the meter may be shared with other properties. Those with galvanised iron pipes (rather than copper) may not have a meter.
  • Newer properties may have installed a remote read meter device.
  • In apartment blocks the water mains might be shared by all units. If you do have an individual meter it could be in the carpark or services area, marked with your apartment number.
  • In offices and factories the water mains might be shared and at the front of the complex. If you do have an individual meter it could be near the unit front door.
  • Properties with recycled water systems should have two purple metres, one for drinking water and a separate recycled water meter.

Turning off the tap on your water meter or water supply line will restrict the water flow threatening to flood your home.

The tap connected to your meter device might look like a lever or valve handle, like a standard tap.

Sydney Water provides photos of different water meters here.

Water companies send out a meter reader for billing purposes each quarter so your meter should always be readily accessible – that way your usage doesn’t have to be estimated.

Call your water supplier if you cannot locate the water meter on your property. If renting or holidaying, the real estate agent can also provide details – ideally seek out the information before a potential late-night crisis.

Step two – Turn it off, turn it OFF

Turn the water main’s tap – usually clockwise – until it shuts off the water supply. If possible, get someone else to confirm the water flow has ceased as you turn the tap.

Make sure you have fully turned off the water main tap.

If the tap is difficult to turn with bare hands, keep gloves and tools on stand-by – try a spanner, shifting wrench or pliers.

You have successfully impeded an indoor deluge disaster.

Call the plumber to establish the source of the problem. It could be a braided water hose failure under your sink, or a street-based issue. You may need to follow up matters with the local council or the real estate agent.

Step three – Master meter reading

Other water service problems such as slow leaks can be identified by finding and reading the water meter. The associated signs might include very high water bills.

Typical older water meter brands include Elster, RMC and Itron. The black numbers on the meter (but the white number if an Itron meter) indicate the kilolitres. The kilolitres are used to indicate water use.

How to read a water meter and find leaks – Sydney Water

If you are unsure of the process, your plumber can take you through it.

To confirm a water leak, note or photograph the numbers, turn off the water for a few hours and then check if the numbers have changed.

Follow Shoalhaven Water’s three step test for Identifying Leaks here.

To raise a query with your supplier, note the number of kilolitres and date of your reading, plus your unique meter serial number.

Step four – Maintain the main

The water main device might develop a fault, so include it in your plumber’s regular maintenance check. The water supplier is responsible for the meter device and the main (though not your connecting pipes) so phone them to report any damage.

Getting the plumber to replace galvanised pipes with copper will enable the installation of a meter.

If you want to relocate your meter, or are in a shared meter situation but would like your own meter, first apply to your water supplier. The supplier or a licensed plumber can carry out an approved installation.

Need a plumber? Call Curran.