Last week I was sitting in my home office looking out the upstairs window. It was a beautiful day! Spring clearly well on its way. I looked over into neighbor’s backyard and saw him with a shovel and a pickaxe. It looked like he was getting a head start on some planting. About 20 minutes into his project, he had a pretty good size hole going. I watched him as he grabbed the pickaxe, raised it over his head and let it fly full swing. For just a moment nothing happened, he just stood there holding the handle. Then suddenly, a geyser erupted out of the hole! He had hit a water line and it was spraying everywhere, he was soaked in seconds. Clearly, my neighbor neglected to call 811 before digging.

What is 811?

Okay, so this story might be a little over exaggerated, but it does illustrate the importance of calling 811 before beginning any of those springtime digging projects. 811 is a nationwide phone number used to access local utility line locations. The CGA (Common Ground Alliance) is an organization that works to protect underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them. They promote the 811 call centers. There is one located in each state. They ask anyone planning a project that requires digging to dial 811 at least 48 hours before beginning, more if possible.

During the call, your information is taken down and forwarded to your local utility agencies where a professional locator will be sent out to the dig site and mark off areas that have utility lines hidden underground with flags. It is advised to use hand tools to dig with should you come within two feet of the marked off areas.

CGA estimate there are more than 20 million miles of utility lines buried below the surface across the United States. These lines include those for plumbing, electrical, communication and gas. Striking one of these lines has the potential to result in a service outage or severe bodily harm. Each type of utility line is represented by a specific colored flag. You can look up what each flag color represents here.

There is no cost to you to dial 811. Be sure you give 811 a call several days before you start a project. For more information visit:

In Oregon

In Nevada

In Arizona