Underground utilities include any public/civil service infrastructures installed beneath the ground's surface. Underground utilities mean electric cables, telecommunication and data cables, water and sewer pipelines, and gas and oil pipelines. These utility lines are often a lifeline of human society and help communities function properly. They are usually installed beneath the ground for convenience, safety, and aesthetic purposes.
Underground utilities are also known as subsurface utilities. New utility lines are being installed underground by default, however some older utility lines are still above ground and need to be buried. This is especially true for overhead electrical cables that can fall over in areas prone to high winds such as during a hurricane or a tornado. Water, gas, and oil pipelines installed on the ground surface are prone to theft and vandalism and hence are best buried underground.
Underground utility infrastructure is usually installed and maintained by a relevant public utility company. The utility company is responsible for their installation must typically seek approval from local government authorities, before construction commences to ensure that the intended utility location is within the appropriate right-of-way.
The installation of underground utilities is usually done by conventional excavation methods, but now trenchless installation methods are also being widely used. Conventional excavation methods pose many risks to construction workers due to the confined spaces, engulfment, electrocution, and unstable trenches. They also take up a large amount of space and cause significant surface disruption.
Trenchless methods on the other hand are less disruptive, and many governments and municipalities are turning to trenchless methods of underground utility installation. Horizontal directional drilling has quickly gained popularity due to its remote steering ability, reduced manual labor requirement, and minimal impact on the surrounding environment.