Water meter in the middle of a grassy area.
Keep Meters Clear of Vegetation 05/10/2017

On the average day, an EWEB meter reader walks many miles reading 400 to 500 electric and water meters. This time of year, besides battling the western Oregon spring weather of 70 degrees and sunny one moment to torrential downpour the next, they also find themselves in a battle of wills against the onslaught of spring vegetation growth that can block access to meters. 

"With the alternating moisture and warm temperatures, hedges, shrubbery and other plants can grow at a rapid rate," says Ray Parker, EWEB meter reading supervisor.

"Meter readers need to have clear access to electric meters, which can be obstructed by overgrown plants located close to the home or building. They also need to be able to locate and remove the lid on water meters," continues Ray. "Imagine a barrel two feet in diameter and four feet tall above the water meter. That's about the amount of space a meter reader needs to take the lid off and position him or herself in a way to be able to get the reading."

It's up to the individual meter reader's discretion as to whether they trim vegetation back from meters. Generally, if the plant looks to be of high value (rose bush, Japanese maple and so on) meter readers will do their best to get the reading without damaging the plant and leave a doorhanger asking the customer to trim the plant. If the work required is extensive — such as a blackberry thicket or overgrown bamboo — a doorhanger is left requesting that the customer clear the area for access.

Spring is also a popular time of year for adding mulch in flower beds and planting strips, which might also be the location of your water meter. Whether you spread the mulch yourself, or hire a landscaping contractor, double check to be sure the mulch isn't covering the water meter.

If an issue remains after repeated notice, a $50 access fee is added to your bill. 

"The fee is a last resort. We'd prefer to work with the customer to make sure we can safely and accurately read their meters each month," says Ray. 

Next time you're mowing the lawn or doing a little gardening, please take a few moments to check the area around your water and electric meter.