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How Does A Dowser Work?

Source: Credit: Thomas Pennant (1781), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

What is dowsing?

You’ve probably asked yourself this before: how does a dowser work? And what is the science behind dowsing? By their own definition:

“dowsing is the exercise of a human faculty, which allows one to obtain information in a manner beyond the scope and power of the standard human physical senses of sight, sound, touch, etc.” - Raymond C. Willey, 1961

There’s field dowsing, remote dowsing, or information dowsing. A dowser has been used to find:

  • minerals

  • lost items

  • and even people

More commonly, however, a dowser is employed to find water.

What is the science behind dowsing?

We’ve seen images of what this looks like: someone is holding a Y-shaped rod or a dowser pendulum in front of their chest. With it, they’re walking the grounds scanning the earth below. Suddenly, the dowser rod jerks downward or the pendulum points to a particular spot on the ground. There it is! Water! Hooray!

Now wait a minute!

This would all be just wonderful if there weren’t all these scientific studies out there discrediting this method. Studies conducted over the past 150 years in England, Germany, France, the United States, Algeria, and New Zealand didn’t produce any supporting evidence. In these studies, none of the many hundreds of dowsers were able to perform better than statistical chance. But if you are a firm believer in this ancient technique and suspect foul play, take it from the words of Diane Marcotte:

“To date, there is no explanation, scientific or otherwise, as to how dowsing works.”

Diane should know. She has been a dowser for over 25 years and is a former board member of the Canadian Society of Dowsers. Why would she say that?

Or consider this answer to ‘how does dowsing work’ by Lloyd Youngblood:

“Countless theories abound, even today, yet, I am not absolutely certain that any one, or even a combination of such theories, discloses the whole story.”

Why doesn’t Lloyd have a more detailed answer? He is a member of the American Dowser Association and should know the whole story. Why is he so vague? From the perspective of a dowser, the answer is quite simple: dowsing works. Thomas Edison said “it’s obvious that we don’t know one millionth of one percent about anything.” So, it may not matter whether current science can explain dowsing or not. However, this view is problematic. Because when it comes to finding water, how should people decide whether to seek advice from a self-proclaimed dowser or a licensed surveyor? Historical and anecdotal evidence can be quite captivating. On the other hand, data and statistics derived from it can be manipulated. We believe the solution to this is looking at hard numbers. It’s still the best method for evaluating which method of water exploration to choose. Now, let’s get into it. Should you hire a local dowser or contract a water surveyor? Let’s compare the two:

Dowser vs Surveyor Comparison Chart

Dowsing And Water Surveyor Factors The Chart Compares

  1. The methodology used to locate the water

  2. The accuracy of the used method to locate water

  3. How valuable the assessment is (in case you don’t drill and sell the property)

  4. Any guaranties offered (money back, water in the hole)

  5. How long it takes (timeframe) until assessment is complete

  6. The total cost from first contact until water is found

  7. If the search is able to identify primary water

  8. If there are any references (verifiable case studies, other customers)

  9. If the method used poses a health threat (noise, EMF, fuel)

  10. Is the method bad for the environment?

  11. If specialty equipment is required for the job (proprietary tools, metal rod etc.)

  12. The size of the team involved in finding water


Choosing a method for finding water is serious business. It’s about time and money. And it’s about trust. Water dowsers use ancient practice and intuition to locate water wells and many speak of their ability to locate water effectively. There are also training programs to teach you how to become a water dowser or you can hire one. There are cases, however, where:

  • a quality dowser cannot be found in your area

  • the recommended dowser near you has a long waiting list

  • you're seeking a full well site report for future land or divided plot sales

  • you want the money you invest to create an asset to get more for the future sale of your property

  • you want to own an asset that allows you to sell your land faster to potential buyers

  • you're looking for a sustainable, clean and flowing source of water that regenerates and never runs out

  • you want to see a complete map of all the water well potential sites for your property

Ultimately, it's important you pick the option that is best for your situation. Is your plan to develop and keep the property? Are you toying with the idea of selling it in the near future? Do you plan on passing down the property to future generations? Are you using the land for homesteading or farming? Do you plan on dividing up parts of your land for future plot sales? The answer to these questions may determine if a dowser or a surveyor is the better investment for you.

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