California businesses looking for water with divination

Dowsing is based on magical thinking. In desperate times, people will reach for anything.

California farmers hire dowsers to find water – The Washington Post.

With California in the grips of drought, farmers throughout the state are using a mysterious and some say foolhardy tool for locating underground water: dowsers, or water witches.

Practitioners of dowsing use rudimentary tools — usually copper sticks or wooden “divining rods” that resemble large wishbones — and what they describe as a natural energy to find water or minerals underground.

While both state and federal water scientists disapprove of dowsing, California “witchers” are busy as farmers seek to drill more groundwater wells because of the state’s record drought that persists despite recent rain.

Winemaker Marc Mondavi notes the general feeling – scientists don’t buy dowsing but most of the people in the valley do, regardless that they are told it doesn’t work. And it really doesn’t. Dowsing has been tested COUNTLESS times under controlled conditions by thousands of dowsers around the world who SWEAR they can ace the scientific test. They NEVER do. Why? Well, because the idea of dowsing as they tell it – that they can detect water – is nonsense. There is no mechanism and the tests fail. What does help dowsers is that water is often found widespread underground. Hits are almost assured if you go deep enough with the exception of being in a low-yield rock formation. Even when in a low-yield formation, you can get lucky with fractures (look for a low area that probably is more eroded) or even grab a few gallons per minute and consider it a hit. The dowsers will tell the client, this is the best you can do here. And they are believed. So, hits are remembered, misses are minimized. That’s how dowsing works. I’d bet they fail just as much if not more than trained well drillers with hydrogeologists gathering data to tell them where to drill. It’s surely an art as well as a science but it involves some luck as well. Dowsers that have been doing this for a while have mastered the art and get lucky but there is zero science. It’s nonsense.

Mondavi is a dowser himself and is marketing a line of dowsing rods. Honestly, as a geologist, nothing makes me bang my head against a wall as watching people who swear by dowsing talk about “underground streams” and other such silliness. They are deluded into thinking this fully explained reaction is some kind of magic. Ridiculous.

Ideomotor effect: The driving force behind Ouija boards and fake bomb detectors | The Raw Story.

Dowsing has been tested for centuries. It's never been proven to work better than chance.

Dowsing has been tested for centuries. It’s never been proven to work better than chance.

Tip: Chip Denman

  4 comments for “California businesses looking for water with divination

  1. Bonnie
    March 3, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    A few years ago I interviewed a well driller for an article. He said that dowsers usually find water because there is water almost everywhere – as long as you go deep enough. And in our area, shallow, low producing wells are common.

    The original well at our place was only 60 feet – and we got only about 10 gallons a day. We had it redrilled and had to go to 600 feet to get a reasonable amount of water.

  2. Angela
    March 3, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Paranormal enthusiasts will swear by it as well for trackin’ those pesky spirits. Don’t know why, really…when asked they kind of mumble something about ‘energy’ and then they trail off.

  3. busterggi
    March 3, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    As Bonnie says above, dowsing used to ‘work’ because it was almost impossible to not find water if one dug deep enough – California and most of the country west of the Mississippi is pretty much used up though.

  4. March 3, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    I live in an area of thick, fractured limestone deposits in SW NM. Everyone here believes in dowsing – some say they can only find water lines, some say they can dowse a well but not the depth; the “best” dowsers say where to find water and at what depth you’ll hit it.
    My property is on a limestone ridge – one of the drillers in the area told me the “best” dowser “went all over that ridge and there’s no water.” I’m completing a 2 GPM well now – very deep. I had to abandon a previous hole when the driller could not get past a fracture that lost his circulation. And me… I paid $100 to a dowser who was my driller’s brother – State Engineer records showed my well was likely to be deep and therefore a challenge to drill and complete (hit water within 15 feet of the depth I predicted from the data.) So – maybe I’m a fool, too – I wanted the driller to feel confident.

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