As I was trolling the WWW the other day I stumbled upon a 1988 publication by the USGS, Water Dowsing:
I had forgotten that the USGS had published something on dowsing, or water witching. For good reason the USGS is not a big fan - no surprise!
My colleague Todd Jarvis has explored the issue in depth. Here is a PDF of a detailed very balanced presentation he prepared in 2007 which I previously posted:
I have never used dowsing or a dowser to ocate a well. My limited experience with dowsers suggests that they are actually very good 'amateur' hydrogeologists who know the area and what features may indicate the presence of groundwater. But what about dowsers who are successful far away from home?
I've seen it used in several instances. In one case, on the coastal plain of Virginia, a dowser successfully located a domestic well. Given that it is tough not to find groundwater in the coastal plain - akin to finding the Cadillac in the haystack - that will provide 5-10 gallons per minute, that was not such a big deal.
The other case was in the Georgia Piedmont - fractured, hard rock territory. It was a success - again, a small-capacity domestic well. The region received over 50 inches of precipitation per year and generally had shallow water tables. If you knew the fracture orientations you had a god chance of locating a good domestic well.
One case in northern New Mexico was unsuccessful - drilling in shale in a low-rainfall region. The driller quit at 300 feet without hitting sufficient water for a domestic well.
Three samples does not say much.
It's true that you can drill a well almost anywhere on Earth and will find groundwater although it may be at great depth, in limited quanity for the proposed use, and of poor quality. In such a case, a dowser might find a well, but for how long will it be producing good-quality water?
What I love are the folks who claim to be able to locate wells in absentia by dowsing maps and charts. Now that's really something! C'mon man!
Suffice it to say that I am not a big fan of dowsing since I know of no scientific evidence to support it. But that doesn't mean it won't work, perhaps for the reasons alluded to above. There is also dumb luck, too, but even we hydrogeologists have been known to use that technique.
Dowsers who have worked for a long time with a good record of success in the same area can be a fgood option if you are looking to locate a well. Probably better than some newly-minted snot-nose city slicker.
So if dowsing floats your boat, then good luck and caveat emptor! But call a hydrogeologist when you're done.
"A fool and water will go the way they are diverted." - Ethiopian proverb