United Utilities Dowse For Water

March 27, 2009 at 8:13 pm (Bad Science, Woo) (, , , , , , )


The Liverpool Daily Post uncritically reports the claims of a United Utilities worker to be able to find water by dowsing. Sigh.

HE ADMITS he has no idea how it works – but the ancient art of water divining is being used by a utility company engineer to locate and fix burst water pipes.

Steve Robinson, a technician for United Utilities, often dumps his high-tech radio wave detection devices for two old welding rods in the back of his van.

And such is the laser-like accuracy of his methods he’s often called upon by other colleagues trying to locate burst pipes buried deep underground.

Uh-huh. Dowsing has “laser-like accuracy”? Really? I could have sworn that the evidence was, at best, patchy. (Genuinely “laser-like” accuracy shouldn’t be difficult to demonstrate, surely?) For example, the JREF board has a list of challengers for Randi’s million dollars. AP Gaylard has previously summarised the dowsing challengers:

Success in preliminary testing Nil
Failure in preliminary testing 1
Withdrawals 2
Failed to agree protocol 4
Failed to make proper submission 1
Have not pursued application 3
Referred to German associate 3

A customer wrote to United Utilities to complain about them wasting time and resources on dowsing. They responded by claiming that dowsing was “proven”. He wrote back to point out the lack of evidence for dowsing, and is yet to receive a reply.

The Liverpool Daily Post, meanwhile, go on to refer to a “German scientific study from the late 1980s, in which 500 dowsers were tested for their “skill”, concluded some dowsers showed an “extraordinarily high” success rate which could not be explained just through chance”, but fail to note the objections of JT Enright – who claimed that “these results are merely consistent with statistical fluctuations and do not demonstrate any real ability”, and also noted that the US Dept of the Interior conducted a survey of 500 publications and claimed that further tests would be a misuse of public funds as they had found “an absolute lack of positive results”.

George P Hansen published an article in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (Vol. 51, No. 792, October 1982, pp. 343-367) that included these remarks:

Of the tests reviewed, only three stand out as well conducted-the map dowsing tests of Cadoret, Osis, and Foulkes. Of these, only one produced significant results, and that barely significant. It is unknown how many other well conducted studies have been unsuccessful. Overall, the parapsychological investigations into dowsing remain inconclusive […] In spite of the large number of investigations made into dowsing, its status remains unclear. This is largely a result of sloppy experimental procedures and or report writing.

The evidence does not seem to support the claims of the Liverpool Daily Post or United Utilities. The article looks like an example of (a) free publicity for the company involved and (b) a nice, easy story being dropped into the lap of an eager journalist needing something to fill a gap in the next edition.

More – links etc


TricksterBook – hosting Hansen’s review of dowsing research.



JT Enright (first page of PDF).


  1. Smart Bombs said,

    Comedy genius.
    I recall a TV programme, where several dowsers tried to identify which barrels contained water (could be 1 or more out of 12 I think)

    None of them got any more than you would get right by chance – big surprise.

  2. jdc325 said,

    That wasn’t Dawkins on the Enemies of Reason was it? Dawkins visited psychologist Chris French, who was performing a double-blind test of dowsing.

  3. Miroslav Provod said,

    The charge of a human body

    New knowledge about the properties of static electricity that make it clear why megalithic structures were built also offer the explanation of other not yet known phenomena. The construction of megaliths due to curative reasons is only a primary piece of knowledge. There are many hints that show us that people of those times new some way of increasing or decreasing the charge (energetic value) of human body. The current science presents that the charge on cellular membranes of a human body has a value between 30 and 80mV and that the capacity of the cellular membranes is 1µF*cm-2. Our medicine is not interested in manipulation with the values of the charge.
    There are more hints in history that that show us how the charge of a human body could be altered. Other than energetically adjusted rocks these were also water springs that emerged from the ground. People have not missed that water emerging from springs has curative effects. Such a place was usually an incentive to establish a pilgrimage place and a construction of a sacral building. This building accumulated the static electricity of the water stream in its matter and people gained the energy from it in a similar way like with menhirs. In the same way as in Lourdes the pilgrim was cured at times. But a great majority registered a decrease in tiredness, better mood, etc.
    However, the energetic curative effect of water is not permanent. If the water is not consumed at regular intervals its charge slowly disappears by transformation into smaller charges. The water keeps only the minerals in the same way as all natural waters that could be bought in a shop do. However, the energetic value (charge) could easily be returned to the water by shaking or by a contact with greater charges. But the curative effect cannot be quantified. It is probable that different people have different energetic values (charges) on their membranes and also need different minerals. Therefore, every individual probably needs different amount of static electricity in combination with various minerals.
    The energetic and chemical interaction cannot be explained yet as well as the optimal value of charge of a human body. We are located in an energetic raster of various charges that always energetically affect us. However, we can get closer to the basic information by experimentally obtaining a great amount of statistical data.
    We do not have to wait for a construction of a measuring device in order to manipulate with the charge of a human body. The constructors of megaliths also certainly used much simpler instruments so we will go in their steps and perform the identification by the use of a dowsing rod. The times when a dowsing rod was being infirmed are gone. The dowsing rod reacts to the same charge polarity with the long known repulsive force. The answer why it does not react in hands of every individual could be found in the not yet explained property of static electricity – the polarity of charges. It was the dowsing rod that made it possible to explore the mystery of megaliths and find the not yet known properties of static electricity. I do not doubt that the dowsing rod could be used in the first steps in the research of the charge on cellular membranes. This however requires obtaining statistical data from a great amount of experiments with the help of those that are interested in this problematic. I recommend to everyone who would be interested in such a collective experiment to first familiarize with the articles “Dowsing versus aura” and “Diagrams” at http://www.miroslavprovod.com/ where I describe the technological procedure when identifying the charges.
    The size of aura that copies human body is much easier to identify if the shape of the body is similar to that of a sphere. This could be achieved by sitting on a step and placing head on the knees. We can identify the radius with a dowsing rod and then calculate the volume of that sphere. However, we cannot ask people to sit on a step on some occasions e.g. when leaving a stadium. I have solved this problem by identifying the size of aura at the chest and then assuming that it is the same fraction of the total aura in all instances. This is reasonable for statistics and evaluation.
    The size of aura is proportional to the charge on human cells and its easy identification makes it possible to control the energetic value of our body at all times. Therefore, I would recommend obtaining such statistical information in all situations. It can be found whether the bed we sleep on is in a harmful strong zone or not by identifying the size of our aura before we go to sleep and after we wake up. In this case, the size of the aura could greatly be influenced by a metal bed. It would also be interesting to identify the aura of passengers in various vehicles before and after the ride (or flight) as well as before and after visiting a place where many people meet together. Everyone would be surprised what alcohol does with the energetic of a human body even a long time after its consumption. It will not be less interesting to observe the aura on people that are addictive to nicotine, alcohol, drugs, by gamblers, homeless people, people affected by some long term illness (I have an information from a cancerologist that his most severely affected patients have aura of 15cm radius), etc. The information obtained could also be specified by including the information about sex (man or woman) and the age.
    It will not be easy to approach the knowledge of ancient cultures about which we have had a wrong view. However, we can expect surprising results from further research.
    November 2009
    Miroslav Provod

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