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article imageWater witches used in California to find water

By Megan Morreale     Mar 3, 2014 in Science
Some California farmers have turned to water witches, or dowsers, in desperation to locate underground water throughout the state.
This unusual and as some say, foolhardy tool for locating water feels like a last resort for many local California farmers who are dependent on the water for the sake of their livelihood.
Dowsers use rudimentary tools, either copper sticks or wood "diving rods" that look like large wishbones in order to channel what they describe as "natural energy" to help them find water.
While the practice is not supported by state and federal scientists, many of the largest and most famous farms in California pay for dowsers to help them find water on their own land, reported the Washington Post.
"The nation’s fourth-largest winemaker, Bronco Wine, says it uses dowsers on its 40,000 acres of California vineyards, and dozens of smaller farmers and homeowners looking for wells on their property also pay for dowsers. Nationwide, the American Society of Dowsers boasts dozens of local chapters, which meet annually at a conference."
“It’s kind of bizarre. Scientists don’t believe in it, but I do and most of the farmers in the valley do,” said Marc Mondavi, a famous vineyard owner whose family making wine since the mid-20th century in the Napa Valley.
Mondavi practices dowsing himself, claiming to have found the edges of the Mondavi farm's underground stream. Since the passing of Nappa's most famous dowser, Mondavi has taken over the role, charging $500 per visit with additional charges if the well he discovers pumps more than 50 gallons per minute.
With his popularity growing this year from the drought, Mondavi will be releasing a line of wines called "The Diving Rod" this year.
Skeptics of the practice say that dowsers are a hoax, looking for water in places that it is likely to be found.
“There’s no scientific basis to dowsing. If you want to go to a palm reader or a mentalist, then you’re the same person who’s going to go out and hire a dowser,” said Tom Ballard, a hydrogeologist with Taber Consultants, a geological engineering firm based in West Sacramento.
The practice has not held up well under the scientific scrutiny of the U.S. Geological Survey, who found that dowsers are most successful in areas where underground water is found to be abundant.
More about dowser, water witch, Drought, california drought, California
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