Before you start digging

Drawings of location of utility pipes

There are all kinds of ramified pipelines below the surface of populated areas. The normal strain and degeneration of utility pipelines can cause many malfunctions, but groundwork is the most common cause of breakdowns.

Many people know that, generally speaking, cold water pipes lie with drainpipes at a depth of about one metre and that district heating pipes and electrical and fibre optic cables also lie together in a trench at a depth of around 1 metre. This simply is not sufficient information before you start digging. Before the groundwork starts, the development entities need to obtain the required information and permits for the work. If pipes have to be altered, approved drawings must be available.

All requests for drawings are registered to ensure, among other things, that Veitur Utilities’ staff can check the condition of the utilities’ pipes with possible renovations in mind or in order to be prepared to provide further services.


  • Drawings of location of utility pipes
  • Should I dig beyond the boundaries of the property?
  • Alterations to pipelines
  • Liability
  • Finding the pipes
  • Inspectors
  • Danger area by a 132 kV powerline
  • Hazardous water pipes
  • Hot water is dangerous
  • Important Reykjavik Fibre Network cables

The coordinates of most of the new utility pipes can be shown in the drawings. It can be hazardous to trust the depth measurements for older pipes. In some cases the cold water household pipelines owned by house owners may not be in the drawings or their location may be inaccurate. When requested, Veitur Utilities’ technicians provide assistance in finding the exact location of the pipes.

Should I dig beyond the boundaries of the property?

A utilisation licence (previously referred to as a digging licence) must be obtained from the Reykjavik Department of Environment and Planning, if you need to dig in municipal land such as, for example, a street, pavement or an area that belongs to the city of Reykjavik. All information on how to apply for a utilisation licence is to be found on the city of Reykjavik’s website.

In other municipalities in our utility areas, a digging licence shall be sought from the technical department of the relevant municipality.

It should be pointed out that for all of the above the development entity is always obliged to obtain the pipeline drawings from Veitur Utilities before the work begins.  It is not permitted to use the drawings that are shown on the websites of the relevant municipalities.

Alterations to pipelines

If a development entity considers there to be a need to change the location of a utility pipe because of its development, the entity shall apply for written approval of that change from Veitur Utilities before it starts working. If the change in the location of the pipeline is agreed upon, Veitur Utilities will allow the work to go ahead, once an agreement has been reached on who should bear the cost or how it should be divided.

The basic principle is that the entity that requests the alteration should cover the cost.


Mechanical diggers cause most of the damage to our utility pipes in the earth. For this reason the owners of machinery need to insure themselves against the damage they may cause to utility pipes in the earth. The cost of repairing utility pipes for each damage can stretch from tens of thousands to millions of krónur. This does not include the costs the development entity has to bear for fixing the damage caused by the incident, e.g. harm caused by water leaks from damaged pipes.

All damages are the responsibility of the development entity and it is uncertain where the scope of insurances lie, if the required information and licences have not been obtained. Veitur Utilities provides information on the location of pipelines to shield contractors from damages. If a development entity damages utility pipes, we will send it a bill for their repair.

Damage to utility pipes causes inconveniences to our customers and results in costs that may be considerable.

Finding the pipes

Our technicians are trained to detect pipes before the digging starts. Their attitude is that it is always better to be called out once too often than once too seldom. They have good equipment for detecting cables and pipes or measuring them from fixed data. Do not hesitate to request their services. They are provided free of cost and can be obtained by phoning 516 6000.


A group of skilled inspectors, working on Veitur Utilities’ behalf, monitor situations to ensure that its tendered projects are carried out in accordance with the project descriptions. The inspectors are also entrusted with the task of monitoring projects for which Veitur Utilities has issued drawings and where there are considered to be special reasons to ensure the correct handling of utility pipes. Development entities can avail of this access to our experts to discuss the laying of pipes and to read the drawings The inspectors will call in technicians to locate the precise location of pipes, if deemed necessary.

Danger area by a 132 kV powerline

The most important and also most dangerous powerlines in our utility areas are the 132 kV service lines. It is forbidden to dig or shovel the surface of earth where 132000 V powerlines are buried, any closer than a distance of 3 metres from the location of the powerline.

If a powerline of this kind is impaired, it will cause damage costing millions of krónur, in addition to great inconvenience. Veitur Utilities has therefore established special rules regarding the crossing of its 132 kV powerlines. We should be consulted about all developments in the vicinity of our powerlines, and their locations can be seen in the image above. Veitur Utilities can provide more detailed information on the location of the lines.

Earthworks contractors shall notify Veitur Utilities’ inspectors well in advance before the earthworks begin and they shall conduct the work under their supervision. There are special rules regarding explosions in the vicinity of powerlines and earthwork companies that, for example, work with rippers. Demands are also placed on the careful handling of cables during the period of the project in wooden or iron casing and upon completion.

Hazardous water pipes

For a long time, cast iron was by far the most prominent material used in cold water pipes. These pipes perform well, but became very rusty over time and respond poorly to harsh treatment. There is therefore good reason to dig carefully when digging around old water pipelines. Although other materials are now used, such as ductile and plastic pipes, care nevertheless has to be taken with water pipes and many cast iron pipes are still in use.

Hot water is dangerous

Hot water utility pipes carry water that can reach temperatures of 70-130°C and which will badly scorch people if they are sprayed. The general pressure in the pipes is between 5-8 bars. It is therefore wise to stand clear if hot water starts to burst out of a damaged pipe. There are many cases of people being badly burnt by hot water. There therefore needs to be good preparation before you start digging around hot water pipes to ensure escape routes and rescue if damage occurs.

Important Reykjavik Fibre Network cables

A single fibre network cable can contain connections to 960 companies and households. Repairs on damaged fibre network cables can take several days. Damage to fibre network cables can cause financial damage, inconveniences and operational disruptions to people who rely on the utility.

Call Before You Dig - 516 6000