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Water dowsing is on the rise?

  • Water dowsing is on the rise?
    This man is using a hazel twig to find water on the land around his farm. Credit: USGS

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Water dowsing, also known as water divining, was an ancient way of finding groundwater using a forked stick or some sort rod or pendulum that would point to its exact location. There seems to be recent interest in this practice in France’s countryside, reports The Guardian.

An annual course on water dowsing is having a record number of attendees, while Le Figaro has said the sector has a bright future. Water scarcity caused by climate change – the government of France has estimated that more than half of the nation will experience drought in the summer – is apparently driving interest in the practice.

Water dowsing has been around for hundreds of years; besides finding water, it was used to locate underground minerals or other substances. Drilling a well is expensive, so individuals would turn to a water dowser for advice on the best location to do it. The downside: there is no evidence that the practice is effective. The natural explanation of "successful" water dowsing is that “in many areas underground water is so prevalent close to the land surface that it would be hard to drill a well and not find water”, explains the U.S. Geological Service.

A farmer told Le Figaro that a water diviner had found groundwater under his farm, so he would save a lot of money on his water bill. But, depending on the jurisdiction, you may or may not be authorized to drill a well anywhere, and there may be limits to the amount of water that may be abstracted. Groundwater contamination and depletion are growing problems in many places, and this year’s World Water Day theme was precisely “Groundwater: making the invisible visible”, calling for exploring, protecting and using sustainably this important resource. Hydrogeologists work on the design and construction of water wells for drinking water, irrigation and other purposes; they study groundwater quality to ensure it is suitable for use and to prevent groundwater depletion and adverse impacts on natural baseflows to rivers and wetlands. Clearly contacting a hydrogeologist will be a much better option than going to your local water diviner.

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