Well, Done

Dowsing means to search for underground water sources by using “dowsing rods”.

This year, many of us are going to feel the effects of water issues. The Southwest, West, and parts of the Midwest are all experiencing drought conditions. Our area in northernmost California seems to be trending toward drier, rather than wetter. Neither of the two ski resorts within 90 minutes of us even opened last winter—there was no snow.

Holding Water

The natural spring that provides our house water dried up last summer. In the 24 years we’ve lived here, it has happened twice. Just never so early, or for so long. Even throughout this winter, the spring never recovered its normal output. 

Without a good snow-pack in the mountains around us, we don’t expect the spring to last into summer this year. So we decided we would drill another well—our third. But well-drilling is a costly crapshoot. You might hit a gusher, get a trickle—or not find any water at all. Our second well was a disappointment. We ended up with a $7,000 hole that gives us only about 2 gallons per minute (gpm). I realize in some parts of the world that is treasure beyond measure, but with our gardening habit, it is a paltry amount.


We got a real deal on some used water-storage tanks, and added 5,500 gallons to our 2,600-gallon capacity. This sounds like a lot, and it is. We try to always keep the tanks topped off. Besides water for agricultural uses, these tanks also are a wildfire defense tool. The closest fire station, Cal Fire, is a half-hour away. An awful lot of bad can happen in 30 minutes’ time.

Drilling a successful new well would enhance our ability to fight a wildfire, provide water “on tap” to grow a crop in our new pasture, and, in light of our diminishing spring, give us some water security by having another source.

Water Witch

My Auntie Dot drilled water wells outside of Watsonville, California, for 30 years. My grandfather sometimes “witched” the well sites for her. Water-witching or dowsing means to search for underground water sources by using “dowsing rods,” a forked stick or bent wires that are said to respond to the “unseen influences” of water presence by changing their direction.

The rods Bob-O made for us were two pieces of braising rod with the last 5 inches bent at a 90° angle. We each took turns with the dowsing rod, holding the short ends loosely in our fists, elbows bent, long ends pointing straight forward and close to shoulder height.

We wanted the well to be closer to the new tanks, and went witching for a site around them. As one of us slowly walked the site with the rods, occasionally they would cross to make an “X.” When this happened, we’d stop and put a small marker flag at that location. We both took turns with the rods, walking the entire area. When we both got a hit in the same place, we marked the existing flag.

Comments (2)

Claire Anderson's picture

Forwarded from Kathleen Jarschke-Schultze:
Hello KB6CLA,
KB6MPI here, aka Kathleen. You may have noticed that my column is not about the science and engineering as much as day to day living with an off-grid system beyond the pavement and the power lines. I am not a technical writer. I have accurately described the events leading to our drilling of the well and the results. I don't believe I encouraged people to hire a dowser. I simply shared a vignette of my life. People must draw their own conclusions. In my mind a good story is just that, a good story.

KB6CLA's picture

I was extremely disappointed to see this story which gives credibility to dowsing. There have been many international studies which have tested dowsing. In many of these they gathered the most renowned dowsers from all over the world, and in every study that was carried out with good scientific practices the results were the same. There is no better than a 50/50 chance of dowsing working. Which means when it works, it is just that chance. The core of everything this publication is about is science and physics. Whether solar power, micro hydro, wind, or any other featured technology, this publication is about technology, not witchcraft and superstition. Having just drilled a well last year in Colorado and employing a dowser...which failed twice, water was finally found by using the sciences of soil type of geology. Please stick to science and engineering.

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