How to Find and Shut Off Main Water Shutoff Valve

When there is a  water main break, it is important to know how to shut off the water to your property. It may seem as an easy task, but when emergency strikes,  you may not be able to think straight. Locate your shut off valve before an emergency happens.

How to find the water shutoff valve in your home

The main water shutoff valve is typically located near the water meter or where the water main enters the building. Every property is different, but the main shutoff valve can also be located near the street in a concrete box or metal plate. The water meter is usually installed in a box near the street. The water main entering the building is usually located  in the basement or crawl space.

If you are unsure of the location of your main water shutoff valve, please contact the SFPUC.

Identify the type of valve you have – ball or gate

The water main shutdown valve may be a ball valve or gate valve.  A ball valve is installed where  the water main enters the building. The gate valve is installed on the water meter. For old valves, you notice  a brass or bronze ball with a lever handle on top. For new valves, the handle is usually a wheel. You turn the wheel clockwise to turn the water off and counterclockwise to turn the water back on.

If you have a ball valve:

  • Turn the handle so that it is perpendicular to the pipe. This is the “off” position.
  • To turn the water back on, rotate the handle so that it is parallel to the pipe.

If you have a gate valve:

  • Turn handle clockwise until it stops. This is the “off” position.
  • To turn water back on, rotate handle counterclockwise until it stops.                                                                    

What to do if the valve is closed or you can’t find the shutdown valve

In panic mode,  some people will close all the valves in their home in an attempt to shut off the water. Unfortunately, if you don’t know which valve controls your water main, this can make the problem worse.

If you can’t find or identify the shutoff valve, call a professional plumber or your water utility company for assistance. They will be able to help you locate and operate the valve.

How to turn off the water supply in an emergency

Once you have located the main water shutoff valve:

  • Locate the handle of the valve. This is usually a round knob that can be turned to the right (clockwise) to turn off the water. Turn the handle of the valve clockwise until it stops. You may need to use some force to shut off water to your entire property. If a wheel is installed, turn the wheel on the main water shutoff valve clockwise until it is in the “off” position.
  • To turn the water back on, turn the handle or wheel on the main water shutoff valve counterclockwise until it is in the “on” position.

Tips for preventing water damage in your home

  • Install a main water shutoff valve in an accessible location.
  • Check the valve regularly to make sure it is in good working condition.
  • Know where your main water shutoff valve is located and how to turn it off.
  • Have an emergency plan in place in case you need to shut off the water quickly, and plan should also address how do you fix a leaky main water pipe


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