Australia has millions of kilometres of underground utilities, and despite the fact that there are rules and regulations which prohibit excavation with consulting the authorised agencies, thousands of Australians still dig the ground without even trying to find the existing utilities. With that said, nowadays, digging isn’t as simple and ordinary as it used to be, especially in urban places. It requires great accuracy and knowledge of what’s under the ground you want to dig because chances are, you will come across a pipe or a cable under the ground. So yes, without proper planning and care, the odds of hitting those cables and pipes are rather high. If you do hit them, you’ll cause a lot of damage and disrupt basic services which can in no way be good.
In order to do some digging, you should always get the approval of the authorized government agencies first and use pipe and cable locating equipment to pinpoint the exact location of every utility around the excavation area. Alternatively, your best bet is to hire the services of a reliable utility location company that uses modern pipe and cable locating equipment and has sophisticated techniques. There are several popular types of underground utility locating equipment, the most popular being the following.
Ground Penetrating Radars (GPR) are a popular choice nowadays – they utilize high-frequency pulses to locate underground utilities. Generally, they’re used for finding subsurface utilities by emitting radio waves into the ground which are deflected from the facilities present underneath the surface and the results are then displayed on the equipment. Ground penetrating radars are designed to find buried manholes, tanks, pipes, cables and objects that can’t be found with electromagnetic locators. This equipment is quite advanced and not recommended for newbies. In fact, it’s only recommended for users with extensive experience and training. However, ground penetrating radars also have some limitations. They’re unable to detect in high conductivity soils such as clay, shale or saline. Additionally, they don’t penetrate much, making them unviable for deep underground detection.
The alternative to ground penetrating radars are electromagnetic utility locators. As their name implies, they use electromagnetic radio frequencies that allow the receiver to find utilities that contain a conductive material. This is a reliable way to locate underground water, propane and sewer lines, as well as electric, telephone and cable lines. That being said, electromagnetic utility locators can’t detect pipes made of plastic, non-ductile and concrete materials, and materials that are beyond 5 meters in the ground.
Bottom line is, your choice can also depend on how frequently and seriously you plan on using the underground utility locating equipment. If it’s frequently, then you’re probably better off with a GPR, while if it’s occasionally you might be better off with a more affordable electromagnetic utility locator.