As an editor, I love reader discussion. I got plenty of it when I recently posted a story about water witching on our LinkedIn page.
I posted to LinkedIn a recent story on water witching--to both National Driller's group and the National Ground Water Association group, and was a little surprised at the amount of discussion it generated. Who knew people would have such strong reations?
The article, by Stacy Finz of the San Francisco Chronicle, talked about a member of the Mondavi family (yes, those Mondavis) who used water witching, or dowsing, to find potential well sites for vineyards.
"l think it is an interesting way of finding water outside scientific method. If it works then it should be encouraged and developed," said Natanial Obaze in one LinkedIn comment.
Others stepped forward to say they actually practiced this ancient art. "I have the skill of water witching or dowsing," said Carlos de la Fuente. He added that he was skeptical at first. "But I am completely sure that the rods and sticks works on certain people because of energy of the body or something."
Supporters like Chris Sherman, who used it on her Colorado property, offered first-hand accounts. "A contractor had located the water source but asked me if I wanted to try and find it using a branch. I found it and the feeling is unmistakable when you feel it."
On the NGWA LinkedIn group, members had choice words for water witching.
"In most cases, you can throw a dart at a map and do just as well as a water witcher, but people like to believe in magic, I guess," said Thomas Ballard. "People tend to forget when water witchers don't find water and only remember the 'successes,' " Ballard said.
Michael Alfieri had a curt, one-word response. "Never."
Others were practical. "For finding a location to drill a productive groundwater well, never," commented Amy Martinez Parrish. "I have found this to be a useful tool for locating a water main or utility line, by observing the metal rods cross when moving overtop the buried utility. Of course I supplemented with site plans, utility markings and the works..."
I'm always interested to hear what readers have to say. I have my own skepticism about dowsing, best summed up by a passage from the U.S. Geological Survey passage in an agency white paper on the practice: "The natural explanation of 'successful' water dowsing is that in many areas water would behard to miss."