Dowsing – How Not to Find Groundwater for Boreholes

by | Sep 16, 2021

Dowsing, otherwise known as divining or water witching, is a method that is used in the hope of finding groundwater – an underground water resource. There are a few different techniques that can be employed for divination although most include either two ‘L-shaped’ rods or one ‘Y-shaped’ rod made of twigs or sometimes metal. The idea is that if the rods twitch, cross over, or drag towards the ground, they are detecting something hidden under your feet. 

This technique has been used since at least the 15th century by German miners looking for buried metal ores. In fact, there is some indication that it may have been utilised by Ancient Egyptians, thousands of years ago. Nowadays it is less common, although some technicians working for water companies still use dowsing rods to locate water mains. Some of our borehole drilling “competitors” also swear by the practice. 

So, with such a long history and its use by “experts” today, you might be wondering… 

Does dowsing work? 

Of course it doesn’t work. Did you not read the first sentence? They call it water witching. You’d have just as much luck finding groundwater by gazing into a crystal ball or crossing your fingers and making a wish. 

This was actually tested in the States in the 80s. Not making a wish, but using dowsing rods to find water. It was a double-blind test, which meant neither the participants nor the people carrying out the experiment knew who was in a control group or the real test. This ensured that there was absolutely nothing that could influence the experiment other than the diviners and their rods. 

The experiment concluded that the dowsers couldn’t find a water pipe hidden underground and would have achieved better results by simply guessing that the pipe was in the middle of the testing area on each test. It simply does not work. 

So why do people think it works? 

Dowsing seems to work for a couple of reasons. First of all, it may be down to the people carrying out the divining. Should you ever go to a water witch, they might know areas that are more likely to contain water. Landscape dictates that water flows down, so dips in the land and valleys could be a good indicator. Even plant life can give it away. As mentioned previously, they could also just guess, not specifying how deep to dig or in how big of an area. They are more than likely going to hit on a regular basis. 

Diviners themselves may also believe that it works. The rods do move, just not because there is some hidden treasure beneath you. The science behind why the rods twitch is due to humans’ tiny, unconscious movements known as ideomotor movements. It is the same reason why Ouija boards seem to work. 

Contact Us 

If you’d rather use real experts for drilling your borehole instead of asking the spirits for guidance, we’re here to help. For more information about borehole drilling to access groundwater, get in touch! 

Contact Borehole Solutions today on 01733 200 501. We also offer an extensive range of other geotechnical services, including sonic, rotary and cable percussion drilling, as well as soakaway, water well and ground source heat pump installations! Or take a look at our Instagram to see images of our previous work.