According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, 100 percent of the state of California is suffering through a severe drought. The term “severe” may sound bad but beyond that, 77 percent of the state is now classified at the level of “extreme drought,” which is even worse. As if that were not alarming enough, 33 percent of Californians are living in areas of “exceptional drought” which is just plain bone dry with no end in sight. If there is any silver lining to this moisture free black cloud, it is in the creation of a few jobs – specifically for water dowsers who are seeing an increase in the demand for their ability to locate wells or other underground water sources.
Dowser is the colloquial name for water diviners and they claim to be adept at ‘water-witching” which is a less than modern term for what dowsers consider to be a valid practice. In fact, the organization, The American Society of Dowsers, Inc. (ASD) has an entire webpage dedicated to the history of dowsing, a “how to” section, as well as links to its 2014 West Coast Conference, which will be held in Santa Cruz, California the first week of July. Santa Cruz residents are currently in a Stage 3 Water Shortage Emergency and therefore will likely appreciate the influx of dowsers to the area.
ASD, which describes itself as a “scientific and educational Non-Profit entity” takes the practice of dowsing very seriously. According to the organization, its membership makes up the “largest organized body of dowsers in the world, with over 2,000 active members across the United States and worldwide.” In addition to water dowsers, membership also includes, “seekers of minerals and lost objects, energetic dowsers, and esoteric dowsers.” ASD also has established a Water for Humanity fund, which provides “funding for water resources development, purification, protection and conservation worldwide in areas of critical need.”
In the early months of 2014, climate forecasters had been watching a slight trend that indicated relief might arrive in the form of an El Niño weather pattern this winter but their hopes have faded. In fact, according to the California Department of Water Resources, “Precipitation in some areas of the state is tracking at about the driest year of record.” Maps from the National Drought Mitigation Center show all of California and several other states in brown – a color code key that indicates, “Drought persists or intensifies.”
Desperate farmers and ranchers in California seem to have the perspective that they have nothing to lose at this point and many of them are turning to water dowsers in the hope that they can divine the location of underground water on their lands so that they can drill more wells. Marc Mondavi, whose well-known family vineyard produces grapes in the Napa Valley area of California, is a not just a “believer” he even dabbles in water witching himself. He charges approximately $500 to divine for water and a further fee if he is successful in locating a productive site for a well. Mondavi has achieved some notoriety in Napa Valley for his dowser skills. In fact, the winery developed a line of wine called, “The Divining Rod” which comes with the description, “All wines are natural, only one is supernatural.” The website for the line of wine includes a “How to water witch” section and features a dramatic image of Mondavi with his diving rods in hand.
With drought conditions in California predicted to persist or even get worse, farmers, ranchers and residents are struggling to maintain their livelihoods, livestock and ability to meet their budgets as water fees and the costs of goods increases. Although there is no scientific evidence that water dowsers have real water location skills, the severity of the drought in the state has put some of them back in business.
By Alana Marie Burke