How to Water Dowse

Illustration by Kevin Hand

This blistering summer has left Texas drier than a piece of gas station jerky. It was so hot that planes couldn’t take off from airports and train tracks were bent out of shape. And while Governor Rick Perry prayed for a downpour to end the drought, officials in Llano turned to water dowsing (also known as divining), which uses simple items such as sticks or rods to find water. “Some urban dwellers may think it sounds like magic beans, but it’s common practice around here,” says city manager Finley deGraffenried. The search got results: one dowser found a well that produced 144,000 gallons per day. Though skeptics insist that a person’s unconscious movements cause the subtle reaction of dowsing tools, believers maintain that intuition and natural forces guide the seeker. Before walking into a field with your equipment, clear your mind and ask a simple question: Where is there a clean, flowing source of water? Focus on the query, and one of these tools might lead you to the answer.

y-Rod

This forked stick is usually crafted from soft, flexible wood such as apple or willow. With your arms extended away from your body, grip the forked ends of the branch, palms facing the sky, and steady the y-rod at a 45-degree angle. Lightly squeeze the branches and begin walking. “When the rod responds, it twists and points downward,” says Nathan Platt, of the American Society of Dowsers (yes, there is such a thing).

 


l-rods

These two bent rods, generally fashioned from steel or copper, are each shaped like the capital letter L. The short ends are covered with a plastic or metal sheath, which allows the rods to rotate. Hold the rods in your hands like pistols, and when water is found, they will either cross each other or open wider.

 


pendulum

This familiar tool is simply a weight tied to a string. “It can even be something as simple as a paper clip on twine,” Platt says. Hold the string with the weight hanging down. Either keep it still or set the pendulum in motion. The weight will respond by moving or changing direction.

 


Bobber

Crafted specifically for dowsing, the bobber is a thick wire attached to a wooden handle. To use, hold the handle and point the wire at the ground. It will respond to water by moving or changing direction.

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