Water isn't free, so a meter reader must examine individual and commercial meters to determine how much a customer should be charged for water use. Generally, a meter reader gathers the information monthly, but some utility companies have budget plans for customers and only read their meters quarterly. Modern technology allows some meter readers to check water use using equipment in their cars, so they can don't have to travel on foot. That's also a bonus for meter readers who don't want to deal with troublesome pets that make meter reading difficult.
A water meter reader examines and reports meter numbers to determine how much water has been used since the previous reading. She records those numbers so a city public works department or private water-providing company can charge customers. Meter readers also inspect water meters for leaks or faulty readings and schedule maintenance when required. According to Work for Water, meter readers also collect delinquent or final bills for discontinued service.
Since most water meter reading jobs are entry-level positions, a high school diploma is usually sufficient. Vocational training is available at community colleges and technical schools, but isn't generally required for employment. In most cases, a water meter reader trains under an experienced reader and learns most of her skills on the job. On rare occasions, consumers manipulate their meters to avoid paying for water, so a meter reader must be detail-oriented so she notices problem water readings. Reporting illegal water consumption isn't a fun job, but it's necessary. Water meter readers work outdoors on public and private property, so they must be able to withstand inclement weather and safely interact with outdoor pets. They must also interpret street maps, learn neighborhood routes, possess good driving skills and navigate urban and rural communities. Math skills are a plus.
A water meter reader interacts with the public, so she must have strong customer relations skills. If an outdoor gate is locked, a dangerous pet is blocking a meter reader's ability to read the meter or a water meter is inaccessible, she must contact the homeowner or business owner. Courtesy, kindness and the ability to communicate problems or concerns are beneficial. A meter reader must also possess problem-solving skills, so she can address faulty systems and accurately report damage, malfunction or water theft.
Salary and Job Outlook
You won't make a fortune working as a water meter reader, but the pay is commensurate with the education requirements and experience level. The median annual salary for water meter readers was $34,410 in May 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since many companies are installing technical equipment so meters can be read from vehicles or automated electronic devices, the demand for meter readers is declining. Technological advancements often increase efficiency but eventually result in job reductions. Over time, meter readers will likely become meter repair workers who make sure meters are functioning properly and data is accurately being transmitted to billing departments.
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