Underground Utilities: The Different Types and Their Standard Color Codes

In current times, locating underground utilities has become much easier and more accurate. Where there were incredible risks before, identifying underground infrastructure has benefited greatly from modern technology. That said, being mindful of underground utilities is still a very important job.

The Importance of Locating Utilities

The pros can rely on innovation from companies like Digitrak to stay safe on the job. And with good reason; failure to locate can be disastrous. This is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) absolutely requires that all underground utilities be located prior to digging.

Failure to identify where utilities are can, at best, interrupt service in the area where the line is located. At worst, fatal injuries can occur. The average person can help prevent such incidents from occurring by calling 811 at least 48 hours prior to doing any digging on their property. This way, utility companies have the opportunity to come out and mark where their respective lines are located.

But this doesn’t mean that accidents don’t still happen. In fact, some estimates say that an underground utility line is struck every six minutes. These accidents impact traffic lights, wastewater pipes, telecommunication lines, and much more. The direct and indirect impacts are inarguable of huge concern to public health and safety.

Underground Utilities and Universal Color Codes

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) has undoubtedly revolutionized locating underground utilities, not to mention artefacts of great historical importance and unmarked graves. But for the average homeowner, calling 811 is the truly accessible course of action.

And once utility companies do arrive to locate, the lines underground will be marked with a certain color line to let property owners and workers know what type of utility it is. Here’s the universal color coding system set into place by the American Public Works Association.

White: Proposed Excavation. This marks off the area where work will be performed.

Pink: Temporary Survey Markings. Surveyors use the pink line to mark legal property boundaries.

Red: Electric Power Lines, Cable, Conduit, and Lighting Cable. The color red is often associated with fire and danger, which is apt, considering it symbolizes all electrical works here.

Yellow: Gas, Oil, Steam, Petroleum, Gaseous Materials. Something as potentially disastrous as a natural gas leak warrants a bright color like yellow.

Orange: Communication, Alarm, Signal Lines, Cable or Conduit. Communications equipment underground, including fibre optics, will be marked off in orange.

Blue: Potable Water. Blue is easy to associate with water, and while not as risky as other utilities, should be handled carefully to avoid breaks, flooding, and more.

Purple: Reclaimed Water, Irrigation, and Slurry Lines. Whereas blue water denotes water we use daily for bathing, drinking, and more, this is industrial water we do not drink.

Green: Sewer and Drain Lines. For obvious reasons, hitting a sewer line can derail a project for an extended period of time.

Think the risk is minimal where you’re located? Bear in mind that there are more than 20 million miles of utility line underground in the United States. It is estimated that for every individual, there’s an acres-worth of the utility line. Be smart and stay safe: always call 811, and when necessary, choose a reliable, experienced excavation professional to handle a dig.