November 2020 Vol. 75 No. 11


Excavation-Related Damages to Utilities Cost the U.S. Approximately $30 Billion in 2019

A Common Ground Alliance (CGA) study on 2019 damage reporting found that an estimated 532,000 excavation-related damages to underground facilities occurred in the United States in 2019a 4.5 percent over its 2018 estimate of 509,000 incidents. 

CGA found estimated that the direct and indirect costs associated with damaging U.S. underground infrastructure last year totaled approximately $30 billion in the U.S. in 2019.  That figure represents the amount of public and private resources spent repairing utilities and restoring utility service, as well as the estimated costs of related property damage, medical bills, loss of commerce due to business interruption, and other indirect costs, it said.  

Estimated annual damages have trended upward since 2015, but largely kept pace with increasing construction activity, CGA said. 

The non-profit trade association’s latest Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report analyzed all 2019 data submitted voluntarily by facility operators, utility locating companies, one-call (811) centers, contractors, regulators and others using a statistical modeling process, CGA said. The report analyzes the root causes of damages to buried infrastructure to help determine when incidents occur in the excavation process. 

While failure to notify the one call center is the single-largest, individual root cause, contributing to 29 percent of damages, other root-cause groupings are converging to become roughly equal,” according to CGA’s analysis. “Excavating issues made up 29 percent of damage root causes, while locating issues were responsible for 28 percent. Invalid use of locate resulted in 14% of the reported 2019 damages. 

The report included recommendations to help reduce the incidence of damages, including: 

  • Reviewing CGA Best Practices that correlate with damage root causes (such as examining hand-digging and excavating within the tolerance zone) 
  • Examining the pressures on locate technicians as request volume surges 
  • Emphasizing the proper use of locate requests, and  
  • Developing strategies for persistent no-call damages 

“We have made tremendous progress over the last two decades,” said Sarah K. Magruder Lyle, president and CEO of CGA. “However, there is still significant work to do.”  

She noted that CGA has introduced the Next Practices Initiative to addressinefficiencies that exist throughout the system to achieve the next dramatic reduction in damages.” 

The complete DIRT Annual Report is available at 

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