What Does Red Paint on the Ground Mean?


When you’re out and about, you might have noticed various colors painted on the ground, often in the form of lines, symbols, or flags. These seemingly innocuous marks aren’t random; they serve a crucial purpose in the world of utilities and construction. 

Decoding the Color Code: APWA Utility Markings

To start, let’s introduce the color-coding system used for utility markings, which is regulated by the American Public Works Association (APWA). This system employs a spectrum of colors, each of which communicates the type of utility lines or infrastructure buried beneath the earth. Red, in particular, indicates something vital – electric power lines, cables, conduit, and lighting cables.

Red Marks: Electric Power at Your Feet

When you spot red paint on the road or pavement, it’s a sign that electric power lines are running beneath your feet. These lines may carry electricity to power homes, businesses, streetlights, and more. So, it’s no surprise that they need to be treated with caution and respect.

Electricity is a powerful force, and working near these lines requires specialized knowledge and equipment. If any construction or excavation work is planned within an area marked with red, it’s advisable to consult a specialist. They’ll ensure that the work proceeds safely and without any disruptions to the power supply.

But what if you see something other than red paint marking the ground? Well, it’s possible that utility companies use alternate methods, such as small red flags, to signify the presence of electric power lines. So, if you ever come across these red markers, remember that they serve as a clear warning – there’s electricity running nearby, and it’s crucial to exercise caution.


A Rainbow of Utility Colors

While red is the color of electricity, the APWA color code extends to a variety of other utilities, each denoted by a distinct hue. Let’s take a quick tour of these colors and their corresponding meanings:

Orange 🟧

If you see orange markings or flags, it signifies the presence of telecommunication, alarm, or signal lines, cables, or conduit. These lines are responsible for keeping us connected in the digital age.

Yellow 🟨

A splash of yellow warns of natural gas, oil, steam, petroleum, or other flammable materials beneath the surface. These are highly volatile substances, so extreme caution is necessary in such areas.

Green 🟩

Green marks the presence of sewers and drain lines. These lines ensure the efficient flow and management of wastewater, preventing environmental contamination.

Blue 🟦

When you encounter blue markings, they indicate the location of potable water lines. These are the pipes responsible for delivering clean, safe drinking water to our homes.

Purple 🟪

A purple mark suggests the presence of reclaimed water, irrigation, or slurry lines. These are critical for water conservation and irrigation purposes.


White markings define proposed excavation limits or routes. These marks help outline areas where future work may take place.

Why It Matters

Understanding the significance of these color codes isn’t just limited to utility workers and construction crews. It’s valuable knowledge for anyone who cares about safety, infrastructure, and the environment. When we’re aware of what lies beneath the ground, we can take the necessary precautions to protect these utilities and, in turn, our communities.