Private v. Public Utilities: What’s the Difference?

Understanding the difference between public and private utilities can be tricky. This blog post will explain the differences between the two, show you real life examples, and help you determine what steps to take if you think there is a private utility in your dig area.

What is a public utility?
A public utility is owned by a company or organization that provides essential services. Public utilities typically include: electric, water, gas, communications and sewer. The public utility companies are responsible for maintaining their underground facilities. Part of that responsibility includes registering the utilities with 811 and locating in the public right-of-way, easement to include private property.
What is a private utility?

A private utility is owned and maintained by the property owner. Private utilities are not registered with 811. It is the excavator’s or property owners’ responsibility to have these utilities located at their own expense.

Obvious examples of private utilities include:

  • Sprinkler or irrigation systems
  • Electric running to a detached garage or shop
  • Lines connected to a propane tank or septic system
  • Gas lines under for grills and outdoor fire pits
  • Electric dog fence

Not so obvious examples of private utilities:

  • Water – Customer owns water line from the meter, property line or stop box to the building.
  • Sewer – Customer owns sewer laterals from the tap at the sewer main into the structure, or from the property line into the home depending upon region.
  • Gas – Customer owns all gas pipe after the meter.
  • Electric – Customer owns all electric wires after the meter
  • Phone and Cable – Customer owns service wire(s) from the backside of the protector or demarcation point.

Many people believe that public utilities owners are responsible for marking all the way up to the house or property. This is a common misconception that can lead to dangerous outcomes.

Tips for working around private utilities:
  • Keep in mind that private utilities are likely in your dig area.
  • Communicate with the public utilities to see where they will mark up to.
  • Budget for a private locate to be performed, this cost can vary.
  • Document the private locate marking with photos.

To find a private locating company in Colorado, visit our private locate companies page