Whether you live in a house or in an apartment, the city or the country, you should know how to stop the flow of water in your home. An emergency may arise that calls for the cessation of water flow; it could be a broken pipe, a leaking plumbing fixture, or some sort of natural disaster during which the utilities need to be turned off. Find out whether the water valves can be turned by hand or will require a wrench, if a wrench is required keep the correct size wrench handy.
Water Meter Valve
If you reside in a house in the city or suburbs, most likely the local water company supplies water to all the homes in the neighborhood through the water main. The meter that records water consumption for the supplier is most likely found just inside the basement wall closest to the street. Find out where the water meter is in your house. Water meters are made of brass, about 6 inches in diameter, and have a housing that contains a dial and counter similar to the odometer in your car. To shut off all water flow throughout the house, find the main valve on the side of the meter where the street pipe enters the house. Turn the main valve — or “gate valve” as it is known — clockwise; if there are two valves, turn off the valve on the supply side of the meter.
Plumbing Fixture Valves
In addition to the main water valve, there are often shutoff valves at each plumbing fixture, such as the sink, toilet, bathtub, washer, and water heater. If you live in an apartment, you probably won’t have access to the main water valve and can shut off the flow of the water to individual fixtures. Separate shutoff valves also enable you to work on individual fixtures without turning off the flow of water to the entire house. Look for shutoff valves under the sink in the bathroom, under the kitchen sink, on the incoming cold water pipe on the water heater, and beneath the water tank or closet behind the toilet bowl.
Locate the valve to the fixture and turn it clockwise. A faucet will have two shutoffs: one for cold water and one for hot.
Rural residents who get their water supply from a private well should be able to locate and shut off the well pump switch or valve, located at the top of the well pump. Alternatively you can turn off the valve on the supply pipe from the well to the house.