stomping on my ahas

Good day America’s highly esteemed inspectors,

any knowledgeable blokes welcome to stomp my ‘aha’ moments, I’m always the first to confess I have much to learn. As an older fart, I remember in years way gone by, always noticing a ‘lightning rod’ (as they were called) on the outside of any house. Now I rarely find one at all when looking for an earth ground. So, ‘aha’ then I understood that the system can be grounded by connection to the water system. Now I commonly find metal (steel, copper, etc) water systems which convert to plastic right before entering the ground. Well doesn’t look like an earth ground to me…defect…but wait the system still tests grounded, what the… ‘aha’ the ‘ground’ is bonded with equipment ground so I still test grounded. But I still can rarely find any earth ground…I understand there are UFERs and other magical concepts which I may not see. So why does somebody think they ground by connecting to a system which is actually plastic entering the ground? ‘aha’ that’s not a ground, its a bond. But I still almost never find any earth ground. I get on my knees and dig behind bushes. Also I have found jumper conductors bridging a water meter a foot or two before going plastic and underground. makes me think somebody considered this a ground. why bond the last foot of metal before entering the earth? anyone who can provide a nice concise two or three sentence explanation clearing up everything would be greatly appreciated
mike in MN

When it happens here it is because the two utilities do not speak to each other.
Electrician bonds to metal pipe without bothering to check whether it is metal underground, plumbers changing existing water or gas lines without bothering to check (or care) that it is grounding the electrical service.

Ufer grounding electrodes have been the “norm” in my area since the mid 70’s or so. The connection is usually accessible behind a cover-plate, generally located just below the service equipment. There’s no “magic” about it, it’s simply a GE by way of foundation steel (rebar) in the footings of the structure.

The other connections you are referring to a “bonding” connections, not “grounding” connections. Their intention is not to “earth” the system, but to equalize the electrical potential (bond) between metallic components within the structure.