Private Utility Locating

Utility Locating Services

There is no one tool for utility locating. We typically use initially traditional (EM) locate equipment for the initial locating of visible utilities. We would mark these with paint using the standard colors as defined by the Americas Public Works Association. After the initial locating effort we would typically scan the area with GPR for any indications of utilities or objects which should avoided during any excavation or drilling.

The One-Call System (dig Tess or 811) does not mark utilities. The One-Call system only notifies participating member utilities. These participating member utilities will not mark private or non-member utilities. The utility locating companies notified will locate and mark only primary public utilities, so it’s up to you to keep track of what else is on your own property.

3D Mapping of the Area

When providing mapping services we collect data for the survey area in a grid format. A GPR survey grid means that more area is covered and unknown objects can be discovered and ensure full coverage of the area.

Once the GPR data has been collected a 3D map of the ground and its infrastructure can be developed. This can be beneficial in congested areas for identifying utilities and also for pre-engineering purposes.

Call Before Digging

Call the locator service before you dig, blast, bore, trench, drill, grade, or excavate in any way. The local one-call utility locator service will arrange for marking of underground power lines and other utilities so you can keep your distance. If you can white-line your proposed excavation route, locators can more easily mark the affected utilities.

Never Rely Solely on Your Utility Maps

Utility maps are not updated often, and the markings may be off. The one-call center has the most current, most accurate information about buried utilities.

Call your one-call utility locator service well ahead of digging, so underground utilities can be marked and you can work safely. Call 811 or Texas811 at 1-800-344-8377 before you dig.

Understand Locator Marks

Utility locator markings protect you. Make sure you and your crew know how to read utility locator markings and know the American Public Works Association (APWA) uniform color code for marking underground utilities. Color code charts are usually available from your local one-call utility locator service.
Locator flags are placed within paint marks. If you find flags outside the borders of locator markings, someone may have tampered with them. Contact your local one-call utility locator service.

Utility locator markings protect you from injury and prevent damage to underground utilities. Make sure you and your crew know how to read them.

Tolerance Zones

The Tolerance Zone Protects Buried Utilities.

The tolerance zone is the width of an underground utility plus a specified tolerance distance on both sides of that utility. Do not use power-digging equipment within this zone. The zone provides a margin of error in case the locator marks are slightly off. It also provides a buffer zone to prevent damage resulting from nearby excavation.

The Tolerance Zone Also Protects You.

If you do not respect the tolerance zone, you risk contacting buried utilities. You also risk damaging them indirectly by removing supporting soil, which could cause the utility to bend or break. You could be injured or killed, and your company could be liable for any damages that occur.

To avoid damaging buried utilities, do not power dig within the tolerance zone. Hand dig or use vacuum technology instead.

Frequent Questions

1) What’s the difference between “public” and “private” utilities?

Public utilities are the electric, gas, phone/cable, water and sewer lines that are brought in to a point by agencies such as Verizon, Oncor, or Atmos and where they determine their responsibility ends.

The area of responsibility can vary from place to place so you may want to find out where their responsibility ends and where yours begins! As an example: Some cities are responsible for the water service line from the street connection all the way in to the main structure where others are only responsible from the street connection to the water shut off valve in the yard or at the property line and you’re responsible from that point into the main structure!

Private utilities are the electric, gas, phone/cable, water and sewer lines that are added beyond the responsibility point of the public agencies.

Examples are:

  • Electric lines that go to outbuildings such as sheds, pole barns, garages, pools, etc.
  • Gas lines that go to grills, pools, or outbuildings;
  • Phone/Cable lines to outbuildings; Water or Sewer lines to outbuildings.
  • A septic system, well, or irrigation system are also “private”.

2) Are location markings 100% accurate and are all utilities traceable?

No marked utility is 100% accurate. The equipment used to find those utilities is very good, but you need to understand that these utilities are underground and can’t visually be seen. We suggest a 2 feet leniency on either side of the marked lines to ensure safety or should it be hand dug (or pot-holed) so that the utility can be safely verified.

Not everything is traceable. Anything plastic such as irrigation pipe or gas lines are not traceable unless there is a tracer wire that is laid out with it. Fiber optic lines are glass and are difficult to be traced unless it has a tracer wire running with it. Sanitary sewer lines typically aren’t traceable unless you can access a point of entry such as a clean out to run a traceable source into the line.

Private Utilities are the buried lines after the meter or main lines. If you have a curbside meter then your property will not get marked by the participating member utility locators. Other buried utilities that generally are not marked include but may not be limited to sewer lines, private lighting, sprinklers, fire or water mains, secondary electric lines to detached barns or garages, and septic lines.