Sticks beat science in low-cost search for water


Water witching (also called divining or water dowsing) is a practice used to locate ground water using a stick, rod, pendulum, or something similar. With the drought going on in the El Paso area, a lot of people are searching to have wells built for their farm or backyard.

Robert Garcia is someone people go to before they begin the process of starting a water well, which can cost up to thousands of dollars. He said he uses the technique of water witching to identify the best location for finding water.

Who can do it?


Robert Garcia. Photo by Tanya Carbajal,

According to Garcia, water witching is a gift that you have to have, it can’t be taught.

His grandfather was the one that showed him that he had the gift of witching. His grandfather preferred to use sticks, but Garcia now uses metal rods. Garcia’s father and two brothers tried to witch but they were not gifted with it, he said.

“It has to be given to you and not everyone can have it,”

How is water witching done?

On a recent assignment, the client wanted a witcher to look at his property and determine the locations that would give him the most amount of water. Garcia got to work and took two bronze rods from his back pocket. The client told him where he would like the well to be located and Garcia started searching from there.

He walked slowly in a straight line with the two rods in his hands searching for the veins of water that run underground.

Garcia said that when he witches he feels a vibration – a sensation that tells him water is there – and the rods in his hands open up, pointing away from each other . When they close that means that there is no water in that area.

Garcia continues walking to give the client different locations that could be used for the well.

After witching, Garcia says he feels drained of energy, because the body is the source and the energy is used through the body to figure out the location of the water.

Does it work?

Witchers say the technique works because they locate water almost every time they do it. Garcia says he has been successful in finding water in hundreds of wells in the El Paso area.

The U.S. Geological Survey says that witchers are successful because water can be found almost anywhere, but more scientific methods are needed to find a good supply.

“To locate groundwater accurately, however, as to depth, quantity, and quality, a number of techniques must be used . Hydrologic, geologic, and geophysical knowledge is needed to determine the depths and extent of the different water-bearing strata and the quantity and quality of water found in each.”

But, geologists cost a lot more than a witcher, so many landowners are likely to continue relying on folk tradition than technology when it comes to picking a place to drill.

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