Are you planning to dig a hole? Maybe you’re just planting a small tree, installing a mailbox, or leveling out a wonky slope in your yard – but there may be something important underground that you can hit!

Picture that you are standing below ground with your eyes at surface level like being under water. The same vantage point you may have in a pool. In the water, you can look up on the surface to see what is floating, then look down to see what’s below. You may see your aunt floating on a pool noodle, then you dip under the surface, and what do you see? – Her legs!

From your underground view point, now you see a tree above the surface, so when you lower your gaze, of course you see the roots. They spread out in all directions and reach far from the base of the tree. If you walk along the surface of the ground and decide to dig, you may still hit the roots several yards away!

Now back to your underground viewing, you look at a street lamp, then a house, then fountain. These are things you see every day above ground, but you probably do not think about what is below them. Sure enough, your split vision shows you that these too have roots! The lamp has electrical lines feeding it power, the house has natural gas, cable, and internet lines, and the fountain has water lines running underground to shoot crystal clear streams out across its basin.

Without these underground lines, none of these modern pieces of infrastructure would function. And just like digging near a tree, you can walk far away from the object but digging can still strike one of its roots.

That is because across the U.S. there are over 20 million miles of pipelines, electrical cables, phone and internet lines, water lines, sewage pipes, and other common utilities buried underfoot. These run under homes, businesses, sidewalks, roads, parking lots, parks, forests, and more. That is why it is so important to remember that modern life has roots – and these modern roots are underfoot wherever you see infrastructure.

So before your next project, make sure to pause and think about the roots that may be below you. Then call 811 so you can know what is below. This call before you dig is essential for all projects – big or small – and more importantly, it is the law. By calling, you can avoid damaging these lines, cutting power to your home or neighborhood, or causing a natural gas explosion!

Learn more about life’s modern roots with Aii.


Written by Benjamin Dierker, Director of Public Policy


The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) is an independent, national research and educational organization. An innovative think tank, Aii explores the intersection of economics, law, and public policy in the areas of climate, damage prevention, energy, infrastructure, innovation, technology, and transportation.


Image credit: Aaron EscobarCC 2.0