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How to Turn Off Your Water Using the Main Cutoff Valve on the Street
Posted By Fred On November 4, 2008 @ 7:00 am In Plumbing | 41 Comments
In the event your inside main water valve fails, there’s one final backstop you can operate to shut off water to the house: the main water valve on the street. The picture below shows a typical water meter cover found in cities and counties across the U.S. With the cover off, you can see the water meter and the county’s cutoff valve (to the left).
Note that water meters and cutoff valves vary by district, but they all follow this basic setup. In general, you are responsible for plumbing on your house’s side of the mater, and the city is responsible for the meter and everything before it. The further north you are located, the deeper the well will be that houses this water cut-off valve. This is because plumbing has to be buried deeper in northern climates to avoid freezing in the winter. You may need a wrench with a long extension to follow the instructions below if you’re in this situation.
You should only use the street water cutoff for three reasons:
If the valve at the street has not been operated in a long time, it could be locked up. Whatever you do, DO NOT FORCE THE VALVE. If it will not turn with a reasonable amount of pressure, call a plumber and/or public works. If you attempt to force the valve, it is conceivable that it will break and quickly flood the access point. In order to fix it, the county will have to turn off the water at the next stop, and it could be some time before they get there. You could end up in a situation where you are flooding your neighbors’ basements or your own. So be careful.
If you find the valve is broken, it is the jurisdiction’s responsibility to replace it (since it sits on the city’s side of the water meter).
Never turn on a water meter that has been turned off by the city due to non-payment or for safety reasons. This can be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. If you are having trouble paying your utility bills, you should contact the utility/public works and learn your options for obtaining payment assistance.
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