Finding utilities buried in the ground so they can be avoided is normally job-one before any construction project begins. Unfortunately, nine times out of 10, public agencies and contractors don’t have a reliable paper record of what’s been buried. The assets are more than 100 years old in some parts of the country, and many have been added or abandoned without being recorded.

Damaging them causes cost overruns and project delays. To keep that from happening, many public agencies are adopting subsurface utility engineering (SUE) practices that encourage utility locating.

For example, the largest tertiary wastewater treatment plant in the western U.S. developed a method for identifying and documenting buried assets. The San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility’s Subsurface Utilities Management Program has saved the award-winning operation a substantial amount on several capital improvement projects by enabling managers to bring them in on time and within budget.

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