August 22nd, 2017

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Frequently Asked Questions

Your Water Service

City of Buena Vista, Virginia 



Where Is My Meter?

Water service begins at the meter which is usually located in the alley right-of-way behind a resident’s home. Alternately, the meter may be located in the street right-of-way just beyond the property line. The meter itself is typically located in a vault with a metal lid that looks like a small manhole. Starting at the meter, the pipe that runs from the meter to the home belongs to resident and is their responsibility. From the meter and beyond is the City’s responsibility.


How Often Does the City Read My Meter?

The most common statement we hear from a customer is “You didn’t read my meter.” All meters are read once a month unless the meter is determined to be broken (see section Water and Sewer billing) or weather conditions such as heavy snow prevent us from reading the meters and an estimate is provided in that case. Meters are read electronically via handheld computer to ensure billing accuracy.


Why Don’t You Read My Meter the Same Day Every Month?

Every attempt is made to read each meter at least during the same week of every month. Delays may occur due to emergency situations such as water and sewer line breaks that require immediate staff attention. There are over 2,600 meters in Buena Vista and poor weather conditions may also impact our ability to read each of them on precisely the same date each month.


Will I be notifed of higher than normal water use?

Our meter readers make an effort to notify customers of high water use. They frequently alert customers to readings that seem higher than normal when they are in the process of reading the meters. 


How many days are in a billing cycle?

If there are concerns regarding a billing, it is a good idea to keep monthly bills handy. Check the READING DATE provided on the bill and see how many days there were in the billing period. It may be that this bill reflects more days than the previous month’s. Also note that the bill is for the previous month’s usage.


Does the City Bill me for the exact gallons used?

The billing department rounds down to the nearest 100 gallons when invoicing. If for example a bill for the month is for 4,200 gallons used, a customer may have actually used 4,299 gallons. During the next month if that same customer uses 4,21 gallons, they would be billed for 4,300 gallons. That’s why every few months a bill may be one or two hundred gallons higher or lower than a previous, or future, month’s billing.


How Do I Check My Meter?

To check the meter, you may want to wear a pair of gloves. Insert a tool such as a screwdriver in the hole and pry the lid open. Do not use your fingers. The lid is somewhat heavy, so be careful when handling it. Set the lid aside and check carefully inside the meter box. Don’t be surprised to see insects and spiders in the vault; this is normal. To read the meter, simply lift the cover. Always replace the cover on your water meter after you are finished.


How Do I Read My Meter?

To ensure accuracy and ease of reading, nearly all of the 2600 meters in the City have been replaced since 2005. Meters features a six or seven digit display and are read from left to right, just as any normal number.


How do I use my meter to check for leaks?

Water meters are an important conservation tool providing the resident with information on how much water is being used and assisting in the detection of possible leaks in household plumbing. To check for a leak the resident should first turn off all outside and inside faucets. Make certain that no toilets are being flushed and that any automatic ice cube makers are not in operation while performing this task.


After accessing the meter, the current reading should be written down. Then wait at least a few hours being certain NOT to use any faucets, toilets or other water using devices. After waiting a few hours recheck the reading and compare it to the reading previously written down. If the reading has changed during this time period and NO water was used in the home (or outside faucets) during that period, there may be a leak somewhere in the system. To determine the size of the leak, the resident may want to measure the volume of water that passes through the meter over a period of time. Closing various values (such as main cut-off or toilet valves) in the home during this time period may help to determine the location of any leaks.


How do I check my toilet for leaks?

Toilets are notorious for their hidden leaks. Most toilet leaks are at the overflow pipe. If overflow is the problem, a screw or knob on the valve or valve column will adjust the float arm down so the valve shuts off the water about a half inch below the top of the overflow pipe. If that doesn’t fix it, the valve may be worn and have to be replaced. If a resident is an experienced handyman, they may be able to do the job. If an experienced person is not available, we recommend that a plumber be called.





A – Ballcock

B – Trip lever

C – Flush-valve










The flapper valve opens when you flush your toilet. If the valve doesn’t properly seal or hangs open frequently, the homeowner may be losing water. To test this, remove the top of the tank behind the bowl and put three or four drops of food coloring in the tank water. The toilet should NOT be flushed for an hour or more (if possible). Then the water in the bowl should be checked for any color. If the bowl water has been colored with the food coloring, there is a leak. This type of leak is usually easy to eliminate by replacing the flapper assembly. Replacement of the flapper is a relatively simple repair job for a handyman or experienced do-it-yourselfer.


Can I get my meter tested?

If a resident feels their meter is not working properly and they have checked for leaks as described above, they may request that the meter be tested. If the meter is found to read high, the City will install a new meter and the resident will be credited based on usage for the previous 12 months. If the meter is found to be reading accurately a $10.00 test fee will be assessed with the next billing. If the resident has an older (six-dial type) meter, the City will likely install a new meter regardless of the outcome of the test.