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Volume 9: Number 1 : Article 1

Unconventional Water Detection: Field Test of the Dowsing Technique in Dry Zones: Part 1

Hans-Dieter Betz, Dept. of Physics, am Coulombwall 1, University of Munich, D85748 Garching, Germany

This report presents new insights into an unconventional option of locating water reserves which relies on water dowsing. The effectiveness of this method is still rightly disputed. Now, however, extensive field studies — in line with provable and reliable historic accounts — have shown that a few carefully selected dowsers are certainly able to detect faults, fissures and fractures with relative alacrity and surprising accuracy in areas with, say, crystalline or limestone bedrock. A series of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) projects involving this technique were carried out in dry zones with unexpectedly high rates of success. In particular, it was possible to locate a large number of relatively small underground aquifers in thinly populated areas and to drill wells at the sites where water is needed; the yields were low but sufficient for hand-pump operation throughout the year. Finding or locating a sufficient number of relatively small fracture zones using conventional techniques would have required a far greater work input.

The relevance of the method used was tested under various aspects. On the one hand, project areas with different geological characteristics were chosen and, on the other hand, the relevant circumstances and project results were carefully examined by geology experts. So far, neither critical consideration of all possible objections nor attempts at reasoning have yielded a conventional explanation for the persistent success of the dowsing technique — an outcome which has been corroborated by a number of specifically designed control experiments and comparative tests. The trend of the reported findings is concordant with that exhibited by the findings from recent scientific research carried out, for example, by a Swedish geological institution and universities in Munich. Provided that certain conditions are met, the results obtained show the dowsing technique to be a serious alternative for ground-water prospecting. It can thus be concluded from these present experiences that the effectiveness of locating ground water in certain hydrogeological situations could be raised significantly if conventionally organized operating teams were to make additional use of appropriately tested and selected dowsers in order to pinpoint drilling spots. Along these lines, a model of integration, which has already been tested on a pilot scale in some of the GTZ projects presented herein, is discussed and proposed for future provisional use. The high success rates described in this report suggest the design of specific tests for future use which may contribute to a scientific clarification of the dowsing phenomenon. At the same time, there is the possibility of an especially useful transfer of practical knowledge concerning water-resource development. Finally, due to its biophysical background the issue might be of importance to bionics; further treatment should aim at technical simulation of the proven — albeit unexplained — effects of the dowsers in order to create new and more effective measuring procedures.

(Part 2 appears in JSE Vol. 9 No. 2, June 1995.)