Hydro Excavation: Getting Your Facts Right

Whether you’re a curious contractor, or simply interested in getting to know more about hydro excavation, welcome. 

You’re in the right place. 

Hydro excavation is as it sounds – using water to excavate or dig. 

But that’s only half of the story. Here’s all you need to know about hydro excavation, and what it means for various Australian industries. 

Where would we be without excavation? 

Answer: certainly not where we are right now. The need to dig underground goes back thousands of years, but today there are a few industries that rely on excavation as a fundamental process of their work. Whether it’s mining, civil construction, utilities, all the way down to swimming pool installation and getting your reticulation sorted – many of the services and activities we use daily depend on the reliable excavation of the ground beneath us. 

Ok, but why hydro excavation?

When you think of excavation, you’re probably imagining some large digger, scooping out large amounts of dirt into a pile. While traditional digging methods still serve a vital function in the industry today, there are more subtle, technologically advanced ways of getting access to the underground world. Particularly, if you don’t know exactly what lies underneath, or you’re worried about accidentally damaging existing utility services beneath. 

There are some key advantages of hydro excavation that we’ll go into below, but first here’s how these systems actually work:

How do hydro excavation systems work?

Hydro vacuum excavation units use pressurized water that is directed at the ground to break through the topsoil and loosen the ground – essentially turning the earth into mud or what’s known as slurry. This slurry mixture is then sucked out of the excavation site via a high-powered industrial vacuum system – hence the term vacuum excavation. 

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Where is hydro excavation equipment used most?

Many different industries use hydro vacuum excavation as a means to effectively access underground assets, as well as install new systems in complex and often demanding job sites. Here are some of the main tasks that vacuum excavator trucks can carry out:

  • Underground utility locating 

Whether it’s gas, electricity, water, sewage, or gas, existing underground utilities must be accessed from time to time – either because of an issue or necessary works are being carried out. Hydro excavation is used to effectively locate and expose these underground services. This is known as potholing or daylighting. 

  • Slot trenching 

Sometimes when new telephone lines or complex irrigation systems are being installed, hydro vacuum excavators can easily dig narrow trenches for the pipes to be laid down effectively. Due to their ability to dig narrow trenches with a low impact, hydro excavators are highly sought after in pipeline and utility installation jobs. 

  • Horizontal Directional Drilling 

As a powerful and agile workhouse, hydro vacuum excavation equipment is extremely useful in HDD projects as it effectively sucks up excess liquids from the excavation site, and can excavate or ‘daylight’ various underground services to carry out work on or around them. 

  • Debris removal 

Debris removal is a critical part of any construction site, and removing mud and excess water from concrete slabs, or from large holes in the ground can often become a difficult and time-consuming job. Vacuum excavators can quickly suck up excess water, slurry, and mud – creating a safer and more suitable working environment. 

Benefits of hydro excavation

The benefits of hydro excavation are many and big. Compared to traditional methods of digging, they offer a unique set of advantages:

  • Non-invasive excavation 

Hydro excavation is a non-invasive style of digging into the ground. This is because there is minimal displacement of earth onto the surface, and can be done quickly and effectively without damaging the ground around the site. 

  • Accuracy 
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Large diggers and earthmovers are very effective at moving large amounts of dirt, but they’re not exactly the most accurate and composed types of machinery. Hydro vacuum excavators are precision-orientated and able to excavate with pinpoint accuracy down to depths of around 20-30 meters. 

  • Versatility 

Complex and crowded job sites can make accessing the excavation site a nightmare for an operator. Hydro vac trucks or mounted trailers are easily maneuverable, and have hoses that can reach excavation sites up to 180 meters away from the pump and tank. 

  • Safety 

One of the main advantages of a hydro vacuum excavator is the increased safety that comes with a more controlled excavation method. In allowing the water to easily work through the dense ground, there is no risk of damaging electrical cables or sewer pipes that may lie beneath. 

Where to get hydro excavation equipment?

Many local dealerships will offer a range of hydro vacuum excavation equipment. And as demand increases, the number of suppliers is only increasing. With multiple options on the table, it’s often best to go with the market leaders – Vermeer in this case has been in the vacuum excavator game for decades and has the largest range of equipment to choose from. 

Want to know more? Reach out to the experts 

Hydro excavation has changed the way we dig. It’s also provided contractors with innovative ways to access underground assets while creating a safer and more productive job site. If you want to learn more about hydro vacuum excavators, get in touch with your local Vermeer dealership today. 

Johnny Thompson

Johnny Thompson is a senior reporter for Generator Research in Los Angeles, reporting on technology, business, finances, and more. He previously worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

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