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Do dowsing, witching or divining rods really work for Utility Locating?


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Before designing or installing an underground fibre optic network in an ideal world, you call 1100 (Australia). A lot of countries have this service; check the number for your area. You can get a file (or a set of paper drawings, if you’re old-school) with geographic information data for the location of all underground utilities along the route where new fibre optic cable will be run. Or the right-of-way owners would have documentation of every subsurface utility along the path you intend to take.

I’m sure you already know that the world isn’t flawless! Underground utilities were established so long ago in many regions that kept no records or were lost. Almost every city or suburb has old utilities with a hazy location or have been abandoned entirely.

Is it time to bring out the dowsing rods?

Dowsing Rods: What Are They?

Dowsing rods have been increasingly popular in recent years as some claim to use them to locate water and other hidden objects beneath the ground. While it may seem incredible to think that a person may find water underneath by merely holding a rod above the ground, the reality is far more complicated.

Water dowsing, also known as witching, is the process of walking around an area with a dowsing rod to locate water and other materials that may be hidden beneath the earth. The dowsing rod (also known as a divining rod) resembles a Y-shaped branch and is said to be used to locate items such as pipelines, gas lines, and empty conduits. When the dowser feels a tug on the branch or the wire rods cross, the rod is said to be signaling the user that there is something beneath the ground.

The question remains, however: Do dowsing rods work?

Dowsing is frequently connected with pseudoscience and the supernatural realm, and some research suggests that utilising these rods is no more effective than relying on chance alone. Individuals who are suspicious of their use point out that those who use dowsing rods can’t even agree on some of the essentials of their use, which makes proving their usefulness difficult.

 Many of these folks believe they work because of something related to magnetic fields in the earth. In any event, it’s difficult to say what’s going on without scientific evidence that these tools are more successful at finding objects underwater than chance.

Skeptics frequently ascribe dowsing movements to the ideomotor effect, which occurs when the body reacts automatically to an idea without performing conscious action. An Ouija board is a common illustration of the ideomotor effect in operation. Even if no one touching the triangle is consciously moving the centrepiece, the ideomotor effect suggests that unconscious reflexive movements may be at work.

While many major utility locating services may not recognise dowsing, it turns out water companies have been utilising dowsing to locate damaged pipes, which is a very routine procedure. Many skilled locators will state that they have used and continue to use it to identify underground pipes and water. Dowsing rods, which can be constructed out of coat hangers, can be used to see if you’re standing on top of a live pipeline. According to several expert locators, it won’t tell you how deep the pipeline is, but it is a reliable approach to find pipes. Skeptics argue that there is no underlying science dowsing, while others argue that intuition is the driving force. Dowsing has been used to discover subsurface water since the Middle Ages, regardless of who you believe, but is it safe?

Despite the lack of scientific proof for its usefulness, many water company providers have admitted to continuing to use water dowsing.

Can Dowsing Be Dangerous?

Although some individuals swear by it, I wouldn’t encourage dowsing because it isn’t backed up by scientific evidence.

Utility companies that use dowsing rod services waste time and resources and risk injuring someone if they do not take professional procedures to clear an area before digging, excavating, or water drilling. Dowsing rods have the potential to cause serious accidents, resulting in property damage or injuries.

Underground cables must be detected, identified, and correctly marked before construction can begin.

The location of the cable in the proposed work area should be located as precisely as possible, using a locating device, drawings, and other information as a guide.

Keep in mind that locators should be utilized regularly and repeatedly throughout the project.

When cables are damaged, people can be killed or injured by electric shock, electrical arcs (causing an explosion), and flames.

Even if protective equipment is worn, this frequently results in severe burns to the hands, face, and body.

When a cable is sliced through by a sharp instrument, such as the point of a tool, or crushed by a big object or powerful machine, it can cause damage.

While it is ultimately up to each company to decide how they will fulfill their customers’ obligations, they should consider whether they are using the most efficient and cost-effective techniques and resources.

As a Utility Locator, I worked with some drillers who believed in a man who utilized divining rods and claimed that it worked. He later claimed, however, that he can detect other objects, such as water pipes. I wouldn’t trust a utility locator who employs divining rods since it implies they do not believe in their ability.

People who use a locator should have gotten extensive training on how to use it and what it can and cannot do. Locating devices should always be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions and should be regularly examined and maintained in excellent working order.

Dowsing for self-satisfaction is one thing, but doing it for clearances is risky and irresponsible.

Definitive NO. Dowsing, Witching or divining rods definitively don’t work as a service.


Do your own research, and question your answers for deeper understanding of the reality we live in.

David Craig Young.

If you are a professional utility locator, divining rods just waste effort and can only really be useful to indicate weather someone believes in things like dowsing. The reason I wrote this blog post is for those drillers I met in Sydney (2019). It did take a little bit of time to prove it wasn’t true for myself, and was interesting to hear people talk about it.

The video below is a decent, short answer on why dowsing (or witching) works for water bores (drilling).

However, he forgets to mention you should always use a professional utility locator to clear the area of dangerous utility services that could be onsite. Its your duty of care for your drillers or anyone excavating. The clearance checks can save your workers from serious injury or expensive damages.

Still Not Convinced?

Below are some more videos with scientific evidence on dowsers and why they are dangerous to your physical and mental health.

Why did diving, witching and dowsing became popular over time?

Demonstration of dowsing working…

Just kidding, this is a magic trick using NLP, watch the full episode for context. The magician Darren Brown guides the dowser with carefully selected sentences and words.

Do people still use dowsing services in Australia?

James Randy isn’t perfect, He is wrong about somethings still.

The following production was produced by Dick Smith and James Randy.

Believe it or not, sometimes 2 + 2 does not equal 4. It depends on what type of measurement scale you are using. There are four types of measurement scales nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio. The ordinal scale has all the qualities of the nominal scale plus the ability to rank objects according to some attribute.


Do your own research, so you can learn, understand your own knowledge. Researching and discussing it will also give you an understanding of your own limitations and others understanding of subjects, so you can trust your knowledge better.

Sorry if I have wasted any of your time, I hope you have learned something useful.

What is a Dip Needle, and how it relates to Dowsing?

Dip circle, also called Dip Needle, or Inclinometer, instrument for measuring the inclination, or dip, of the Earth’s magnetic field. It consists essentially of a magnetic needle pivoted at the centre of a graduated circle. The assembly is mounted such that the needle swings vertically rather than horizontally, as does a compass needle. When the instrument is placed with the plane of the circle in the magnetic meridian of the Earth, the needle points in the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field.







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