Saturday, January 10, 2009

How much scientific is Water Dowsing or Water Witching?

How much scientific is Water Dowsing or Water Witching?
by
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Water Dowsing or Water Witching" refers in general to the practice of using a forked stick, rod, pendulum, or similar device to locate underground water, minerals, or other hidden or lost substances, and has been a subject of discussion and controversy for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of lithologic formations. A unit of rock or an unconsolidated deposit is called an aquifer when it can yield a usable quantity of water. The depth at which soil pore spaces or fractures and voids in rock become fully saturated with water is called the water table.
Ground water is an important part of the water cycle. Ground water is the part of precipitation that seeps down through the soil until it reaches rock material that is saturated with water. Water in the ground is stored in the spaces between rock particles (no, there are no underground rivers or lakes). Ground water slowly moves underground, generally at a downward angle (because of gravity), and may eventually seep into streams, lakes, and oceans.
The demand for water has increased over the years and this has led to water scarcity in many parts of the world. The situation is aggravated by the problem of water pollution or contamination. These situations has forced the humans to search for more fresh underground water. It is a common thinking that underground water is more safe than the surface water which at present days are being contaminated from different sources.
World is heading towards a freshwater crisis mainly due to improper management of water resources and environmental degradation, which has lead to a lack of access to safe water supply to millions of people. This freshwater crisis is already evident in many parts of India, varying in scale and intensity depending mainly on the time of the year.
Groundwater crisis is not the result of natural factors; it has been caused by human actions. During the past two decades, the water level in several parts of the country including Jharkhand has been falling rapidly due to an increase in extraction.

Increased demands for water have stimulated development of underground water resources. As a result, techniques for investigating the occurrence and movement of groundwater has been improved, better equipment for extracting groundwater has been developed.

Other than scientific methods Water Dowsing or Water Witching has been a very common method from the ancient periods to identify water beneath the earth surface.
In the Jharkhand State of India still today many people rely on this method.

The modus operandi of the people involved in water witching in Jharkhand is simple. They break the bamboo stick measuring about two feet into two halves from the upper portion but joined at the bottom giving it a ‘V’ shape, which starts rotating when put at a place with a high water level.

During summer and unbearable heat people call them from different places in Jharkhand to help them find suitable location to dig ponds or install tubewells in their houses.
Using a forked stick to locate water is known as water witching or water dowsing. Although lacking scientific justification for the method, water witches diligently practice the art wherever people can be persuaded of its potential value. Commonly the method consists of holding a forked stick in both hands and walking over the local area until the butt end is attracted downward- ostensibly by subsurface water.

It is amazing that the idea of supernatural powers has such a continued fascination for people. Even in the developed country like USA where the U.S. Geological Survey advises inquirers not to employ water witches, yet the practice continues and receives frequent publicity.

Witching is very common in rural areas where groundwater is difficult to find.

What does science say about dowsing?
Case histories and demonstrations of dowsers may seem convincing, but when dowsing is exposed to scientific examination, it presents a very different picture. Some water exists under the Earth's surface almost everywhere. This explains why many dowsers appear to be successful. To locate ground water accurately, however, as to depth, quantity, and quality, a number of techniques must be used. Hydrologic, geologic, and geophysical knowledge is needed to determine the depths and extent of the different water-bearing strata and the quantity and quality of water found in each. The area must be thoroughly tested and studied to determine these facts.

Reference:
Ellis,A.J. 1917, The divining rod- a history of water witching. U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 416, pp. 59.
Todd, D.K. 1980, Groundwater Hydrology. John Wiley & Sons, New York. pp. 425-426.
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