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Californians Abandon Science, Embrace 'Water Witches' Amid Devastating Drought

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Desperate farmers and landowners in California are resorting to bizarre, pseudoscientific practices as fierce drought ravages through the state and parts of the western United States.

In a Wednesday report for The New York Times, California-based journalist Livia Albeck-Ripka recalled that she first heard about the practice of water-divining when she was in Australia.

When Australia most recently suffered from a drought that shrunk aquifers, dried up rivers and threw cities in distress over looming water shortage, farmers, she recollected, began to resort to the practice.

Now, as a scorching heatwave blazes through the West Coast up to Canada, farmers in the Golden State suffer from similar woes that turned some Australian farmers toward the so-called “water diviners” and “water witches.”

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According to the Times, people are drilling deeper and deeper into their lands to access some water, and the crisis has turned into a heyday for those in the drilling business.

Second-generation Santa Clara County well driller Augie Guardino told the Times, “I don’t want to say business is booming, or business is good, but business is very, very, very busy.”

But he added that this is something that is not to be celebrated. “When business is good for us, it’s not good for the rest of the community,” Guardino told the Times.

Californians have also begun to contact water diviners, according to Albeck-Ripka.

“This is my busiest I think I’ve ever been in my life,” 53-year old water diviner, or water witch, Rob Thompson, told the Times.

Thompson claims that he can find groundwater in the earth using two rods and intuition, the outlet reported.

The broad term for this sort of divining using rods or twigs and intuition is called “dowsing.” Dowsers use forked sticks, rods, pendulums and other devices to find water, minerals, oil and other buried substances.

This method, which came into prominence during the Middle Ages, is considered a pseudoscience.

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Even though the method is broadly discredited, with the National Ground Water Association reportedly calling it “totally without scientific merit,” individuals still employ people like Thompson who dowse for a living.

This goes to show how desperate people have become during the water shortage in the state.

According to National Integrated Drought Information System data, accurate up to Thursday, all of California suffers from abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions.

A large portion of the state — 94.8 percent — suffers from severe drought, 85.8 percent from extreme drought and 33.4 percent from exceptional drought.

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News reporter and international affairs analyst published and syndicated in over 100 national and international outlets, including The National Interest, The Daily Caller, and The Western Journal. Covers international affairs, security, and U.S. politics. Master of Arts in Security Policy Studies candidate at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs
News reporter and international affairs analyst published and syndicated in over 100 national and international outlets, including The National Interest, The Daily Caller, and The Western Journal. Covers international affairs, security, and U.S. politics. Master of Arts in Security Policy Studies candidate at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @RealAndrewJose
Education
Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service
Location
Washington, District of Columbia
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish, Tamil, Hindi, French, Russian
Topics of Expertise
International Politics, National Security, U.S. Politics




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