One of the world’s oldest drinking water practices is one that still can’t be totally explained by science. But this Halloween, it’s worth embracing the decidedly mystical process of water dowsing.
While many consumers and water experts alike may have their doubts about water dowsing, the use of Y-shaped or L-shaped “divining rods” to locate buried water has endured for centuries. Though studies have sought to reveal more about this ancient practice, evidence that it truly works remains dubious.
“The origins of dowsing trace back as far as the Greeks in the mid-fifth century. Herodotus reported the use of wooden Y-shaped forks for finding water,” See Scan explained. “In the 1980s a large-scale experiment was conducted in Germany with over 500 self-proclaimed dowsing experts… The study’s organizers determined that the experiment proved that dowsing worked. However… the organizers had picked out just the few dowsers that had gotten luckiest.”
With climate change exacerbating drought across the world, however, water systems need all the help they can get in identifying potential drinking water sources. For instance, as described in Hobby Farms, one rural water dowser is called upon to help determine if properties have viable source water supplies.
“Some real estate agents in our valley ask him to check properties before offering them for sale, to make sure there is water,” Hobby Farms reported. “And sometimes people who are interested in a certain property ask him to find water before they decide to buy it.”
Proponents of water dowsing argue that it can help by relying on something called the ideomotor effect, tapping into the unconscious, prior experiences of dowsers to pinpoint underground water.
“In the case of utility locating, experience and prior knowledge of infrastructure can influence a technician’s ability to determine and interpret a utility’s underground position,” per See Scan. “Without realizing it, a technician may move the dowsing rods during their search for utilities.”
This unconscious recollection may not be enough to make dowsing a go-to solution for water scarcity among the nation’s water systems, but it should be enough to encourage more people to try water witchcraft for themselves. Especially as the spooky season hits its peak.