It’s believed that hydro excavation began sometime in the mid 1800’s. At this time the miners in California began using vapor pump-pressurized water to break up the terrain they were mining to get access to the minerals they were searching for. In those days, this new method to break up land was called hydraulic mining.
Over time, the technology improved and was used by companies not associated with mining to quickly and efficiently break up land. Then more efficient equipment was developed. By 1969, the initial hydro excavation device aptly named “ExcaVactor” was under development. During the 1970s and 80s hydro excavation work was mobilized by attaching units to the back of vehicles.
Trucks were modified by placing large vacuum and water blasting units on the back and used for commercial purposes such as cleaning sewers and cutting trenches. Eventually contractors realized that hydro excavation had huge commercial potential and the units were then attached to cross country vehicles which enabled the process to be used in remote areas easily.
By the 1990s, hydro excavation had become fully accepted as a way to break up and remove land in an efficient way. That was friendly to the environment, and many companies started developing units of all sizes and shapes to meet the expanding market for hydro excavation equipment.
Today hydro excavation is a well established method of moving land since it is more accurate and causes less damage to existing installations and the environment. It has come a long way, and become a lot more sophisticated, since it was first tested in the gold mines of California all those years ago.
More recently, refined control systems have been added to the digging rigs allowing operators to control the water flow, enabling more precise pressure to be released from the hand held wands. Larger trenches are obviously going to require greater pressure to be released, then that required for cutting small maintenance slots.
Other developments have included fitting heating systems onto cross terrain vehicles which allows contractors to work the hydro excavation system in cold weather conditions. Today the method is used internationally, and more contractors are using it as a clean, efficient way to get dirty jobs completed. Equipment is becoming more sophisticated and trends suggest hydro excavation will continue to develop and grow as faster as more efficient techniques are being tested.