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Farmers turn to ancient divining practice to find water during drought

Published On: May 16 2014 07:43:42 PM CDT
Updated On: May 20 2014 07:13:01 PM CDT

Farmers turn to ancient divining practice to find water during drought

AROMAS, Calif. -

The historic drought continues in California and the state is desperate for water, with people trying to find it wherever they can get it . But water isn't easy find so now, some local farmers are turning to an alternative strategy to find water on their land.

Before moving into his Aromas home, Ted Grachek wanted to know where to drill a well for potable water. Instead of calling an engineer, he said, he used his intuition and a pendulum.

"You can use any tool you want to use for dowsing. The tool doesn't matter, because what you are really picking up on is what you're sensing inside your body," said Grachek.

Dowsing is an ancient art used to find hidden things, even to locate water underground. Practitioners use tools, usually cooper sticks or wooden divining rods, along with what they say is natural energy from within the dowser -- the person being the tool.

The practice dates back thousands of years.

"You see pictures of those fork-sticks in cave paintings," said Karen Ashley-Trippet, dowser.

But does it really work? And how does it work?

"If you asked 10 dowsers how it works, you would get 10 different answers. All we know is - it really does work," said Grachek.

Here's one explanation. Grachek said he first mapped out his property and wanted to know the water path below it. So he used his pendulum to pinpoint the path.

"For me, when it starts spinning to the right, that's a yes. If it spins to the left, that is a no to me," he said.

Grachek said you must ask yes or no questions and focus your attention on what you want to find.

"There is one sight of it right there," said Grachek, as he demonstrated and marked on the paper the water on his property. "This water course comes in here and goes like this."

"There is nothing magical about this. All this is coming from what you are sensing inside of you. This is just a visual manifestation on what is going on in here, your gut," said Grachek.

This year California dowsers have been busy -- farmers are hiring dowsers to find water.

"I've called to refer dowsers more than I have in the last 10 years," said Ashley-Trippet.

Some large California vineyards have paid up to $500 for dowsers to find potable water.

"The last two wells that we have drilled on are probably here at the winery were 440 gallons and 500 gallons a minute," said Marc Mondavi, a vineyard owner in the Napa Valley.

Dowsing has been so successful for Mondavi that he now practices the art and is the go-to guy for all farmers in the area. Mondavi even brands one of his wines as Divining Rod.

But scientists aren't so quick to believe. They say if there's water underground, finding it by dowsing is just luck.

"Water dowsing, it is sometimes called divining, it's more of a folk art, it's what scientist consider and not a real valid method for finding groundwater," said Bob Barminski, hydrogeologist.

Though dowsing is rapidly growing in popularity, the U.S. Geological Survey says scientific knowledge is what you need to know where to drill, not a pendulum and a stick.

Even if the science isn't there, one thing is clear--in this drought, the water farmers need isn't, either. With no end in sight to these dry conditions it's no wonder people are looking for any help they can get.