"It's kind of bizarre. Scientists don't believe in it, but I do and most of the farmers in the Valley do," said Marc Mondavi, a vineyard owner whose family has been growing grapes and making wine since the mid-20th century in the Napa Valley.I don't believe in it, but I know plenty of people who do. I think people subconsciously move the rods, and if water's there, it's luck. May as well plant by the almanac and do rain dances while they're at it.
Mondavi doesn't just believe in dowsing, he practices it.
On a recent afternoon, standing in this family's Charles Krug vineyard holding two copper divining rods, Mondavi walked slowly forward through the dormant vines.
After about 40 feet, the rods quickly crossed and Mondavi — a popular dowser in the world famous wine region— stopped. "This is the edge of our underground stream," he said during the demonstration. Mondavi said he was introduced to "witching" by the father of an old girlfriend, and realized he had a proclivity for the practice.
After the valley's most popular dowser died in recent years, Mondavi has become the go-to water witch in Napa Valley. He charges about $500 per site visit, and more, if a well he discovers ends up pumping more than 50 gallons per minute.
With more farmers relying on groundwater to irrigate crops, Mondavi's phone has been ringing often as growers worry about extended years of dryness.
He had six witching jobs lined up over a recent weekend, three homes whose springs were running dry and three vineyards. It's so popular that he's even created a line of wines called "The Divining Rod" that will be sold nationwide this year.
While popular, scientists say dowsers are often just lucky, looking for water in places where it's already known to likely exist.
"There's no scientific basis to dowsing. If you want to go to a palm reader or a mentalist, then you're the same person who's going to go out and hire a dowser," said Tom Ballard, a hydrogeologist with Taber Consultants, a geological engineering firm based in West Sacramento.
Monday, March 3, 2014
California Farmers Turn to Dowsers in Drought