News Feature | March 18, 2014

Can ‘Water Witches' Help Solve The California Drought?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Facing their worst drought in centuries, Californians have resorted to unprecedented measures as they try to muddle through the crisis. 

Some residents are turning to the supernatural the Associated Press reported.

"Farmers throughout the state are using a mysterious and some say foolhardy tool for locating underground water: dowsers, or water witches," the report said.

How does that work, exactly? "Practitioners of dowsing use rudimentary tools — usually copper sticks or wooden 'divining rods' that resemble large wishbones — and what they describe as a natural energy to find water or minerals hidden deep underground," the report said. This service isn’t cheap, some ‘water witches” charge as much as $500 per visit, reports the AP.

But that barely scratches the surface on the extreme measures California has taken. 

In an unprecedented move, state officials announced they would cut off water to local agencies for the first time, according to the New York Times

"It is the first time in the 54-year history of the State Water Project that water allocations to all of the public water agencies it serves have been cut to zero. That decision will force 29 local agencies to look elsewhere for water. Most have other sources they can draw from, such as groundwater and local reservoirs," the report said.

The State Water Project "is the infrastructure agency that parcels out the water that comes mainly from winter rains and snowfall to water agencies serving cities and agricultural areas. Because precipitation has been rare this winter, there is virtually no hope supplies for the dry summer will be adequate," UPI explained

The decision to suspend water distribution to agencies aims to "conserve what little water is left in state reservoirs," PBS reported

Meanwhile, the state is pouring funds into drought relief. Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed major funding legislation. "The largest share of the drought relief package - $549 million - comes from accelerated spending of bond money voters previously approved in two ballot propositions," Reuters reported