How To Find The Underground Water Line

How To Find The Underground Water Line

Are you planning any construction project that may involve digging? Then you need to know the location of the underground water line and other utility lines to avoid damaging them. A good reason to invest in pipe location is to prevent damage repair costs.

Failing to look for underground water pipes and other utility lines can cause flooding. It is therefore important to know how to find underground water line leaks or detect underground water lines before further digging or construction activities are commenced.

How To Detect Underground Water Pipes

Most water pipes are made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or similar non-corrosive materials. Metal detectors are great for underground pipes made from metals; however, it can be harder to detect PVCs and other non-metal pipes because they often require special equipment and a special process, as not all underground utility locators can do the job.

To get an accurate result, you’ll need a utility line locator suitable for finding metal and plastic pipes. Using this type of line locator is important as it saves time and energy and increases the chances of detecting water lines.

Armed with your underground water line detector, follow the steps below;

Set Up Your Utility Locator Correctly

The key to accurate results is correctly setting up your utility line locator. The setup will also depend on the model and equipment type you’re using. For example, some locators are designed to beep or alert you when they come in contact with a pipe, while others have built-in displays with warning signs. Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions as you set up the line detector.

Aim the Underground Utility Locator at the Ground as You Walk

An excellent way to get accurate results is to aim the underground utility locator in front and walk behind it. The device will either let out a beep through your headphones or light up a display when it comes in contact with an underground utility line. Ensure that each location detected is appropriately marked to prevent errors and to prevent damaging those underground pipes.

Although the steps above are general for locating underground pipes, utility locators leverage various technologies to detect underground piping. Some of the standard methods used include;

Acoustic Method

The acoustic method of underground piping detection has been around for many years. In fact, it is one of the oldest methods for detecting underground water lines and utilities. This method relies on using rods or branches held over the ground to detect subsurface location based on their movement.

Although this method has been around for hundreds of years, its accuracy has been a subject of many debates. There are varying opinions from one utility contractor in Maryland to another. This method has been largely phased out due to new technology and the debate around result accuracy.

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)

This is one of the most effective methods for locating underground water lines and utilities. It is perfect for both metallic and non-metallic utility and water lines. Although the results are accurate, it can be a hassle, mainly because it requires a little more effort to operate.

To operate the Ground Penetrating Radar, you need the required technical know-how. You’ll need to remove the hydrant’s cap, insert the leak detection device inside and in the right way, and pressurize the hydrant to get accurate results.

Electromagnetic Conductivity (EM)

This method is more specialized and is often more expensive. The electromagnetic conductivity method allows utility contractors to easily find underground utilities, including underground electric wires. However, a significant setback to using this method is it cannot detect PVC pipes.

For electromagnetic conductivity, utility contractors can get a better result searching for metallic pipes when they know the technical know-how of its operation.

Ultra-High Radio Frequencies

This is perhaps the best method to adopt when dealing with wet, waterlogged, or flooded soil. This method is also perfect for snow, clay, or areas with standing water. The device is designed to penetrate the soil surface, thus circumventing the common elements that may deter other detection methods.

For the ultra-high radio frequency, a hand-held device manually hovers over the ground while the reader checks the display screen for different indicators.

Public vs. Private Utilities

The first step in planning any digging activities is understanding public and private utilities. Each state and city has its hotlines to call for free underground utility locating services. However, these services can only locate public underground infrastructures like sewage, public water, electricity, natural gas lines, etc.

You need the services of a private utility locator to necessarily locate the private utilities that may lie underneath your grounds or digging sites. These private utility locators can help detect residential, commercial, and private property utilities and prevent damage.

Hiring a private utility contractor for this job is essential, especially as most property owners are oblivious to the underground hazards below their property. Some obsolete lines that have been abandoned and replaced by previous owners may have been left buried, which may constitute a future problem for the property and its inhabitants.

During your engagement with your private utility locator, ensure that these common underground private utilities are checked for;

  • Propane or natural gas lines for heated pools
  • Electricity for exterior and landscaping lighting
  • Underground water features piping and sprinkler system setups
  • Well water systems
  • Storm drains
  • Power for a detached shed or garage
  • Septic pipes and septic tanks

Benefits of Underground Utility Locating Services

The benefits of choosing an underground utility locating service before digging or construction activities include;

  • Eliminates or reduces disruption of critical utilities like gas lines, fiber optic systems, electrical systems, and hot steam & cold water lines.
  • Reduces potential hazards that could lead to health and safety issues, including loss of life
  • Provides important information to engineers, construction professionals, and architects. This information can help them in planning for construction activities.
  • Saves costs and reduces expenses related to repair and replacement of damaged underground utilities.

Get in touch with BFMD for all underground utility locating services in Maryland. We also provide full-service plumbing solutions like video pipe inspection, public right-of-way plumbing, water meter installations, sewer line replacements, etc.