British Water Companies Are Searching For Leaks With Divining Rods And I'm So Angry I Could Cry

Imagine if someone came to your house to fix your pipes, then stumbled around your yard blindly with a pair of sticks. Now imagine if you called the company they worked for and their rep said, "Yep, sometimes that's how we look for pipes."

This is what they are doing (Image: National Library of Wales/Wikimedia Commons)

The Guardian reports that 10 of 12 United Kingdom water companies admit to using water dowsing rods to find leaks and pipes. Some angered folks are calling for regulatory oversight and penalties for practising companies. I am calling for a giant meteor, since that might be a more cost-effective way to locate underground pipes.

If you don't know what dowsing is, you're in for a real treat: It's the act of using witchcraft to locate something with sticks. When you're in the right spot, magic makes the sticks cross or wobble. It is a game of pretend.

I have tried to use dowsing rods. They crossed. Because I moved them. With my hands.

The discovery was the Twitter work of science blogger and University of Oxford PhD student Sally Le Page, whose parents observed a Severn Trent employee using a pair of "tent pegs" as if they were divining rods, reports The Guardian. I wouldn't call Severn Trent's response to her tweet an admission - "admitting" implies that you know you've done something wrong.

Other companies excitedly owned up to it, too.

Only one company, Wessex Water, said they didn't, while a Northern Irish company didn't respond to Le Page's questioning.

This has to be a joke. It can't not be a joke.

The UK Water Services Regulation Authority told The Guardian that it's the job of these companies to work cost effectively, and doing otherwise could earn them a financial penalty. They did not call for a ban of using pairs of sticks to locate pipes.

How would you feel if your electrician tried to fix your wires with a crystal ball? How would you feel if a valet parker used a pendulum to find your car? How would you feel if your doctor tried to locate a tumour in your body with a Ouija board? How would you feel if they handed you a bill for these services?

I am not calling an expert to explain how holding a pair of sticks, then crossing them when you feel like it, is an ineffective way to find water.

It isn't like other countries are any better. In the United States, people try to heal their energy with stickers, put butter in their coffee to lose weight, and act like arseholes because, uh, stars and planets.

But wow. Just, ugh. Wow. Mnfgh.

[via The Guardian]

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    Now lets not burn people that practice witchcraft. But Lock them up for fraud.

    Surely its only wrong if they charge you.

    If there's no charge then they are free to use any method, proven or unproven, that they think will work.

      Charge or not, I'd see them off with some colourful language if they turned up doing this at my place, it's a waste of my time.
      Having said that, it's the first I've heard of diviners using sticks, I thought they used wire?

      Depends how the leak is affecting you. If your house is filling up with water while someone is strolling around holding a pair of sticks, you'd probably be pissed if they charged you or not.

      They do charge you. Your water bill pays for these idiots to wander about doing this shit. If they were more efficient, they would probably gouge you just a little less.

    Actually, I tried dowsing sticks myself and it worked. The real test is that if it works, it works. Does the author have any evidence to suggest that it does or doesn't other than posting a pointless screed?

      There's somewhere between $10,000 and $40,000 (not to mention a Nobel Prize) up for grabs if you can prove they work. If it's so simple, it's weird that nobody has claimed the prizes.

        Came here to post that as well, show us your stuff Chompers!!!

        I have no doubt that it probably doesn't work. I don't know. I was just relating an experience from my youth.

          Did you walk over a bucket of water when the sticks crossed?

            No, it was a buried water pipe. I knew the basic area it would be in though. It was about 5x20m in size. Not really proof of anything.

      You are fooling yourself if you believe that.

        Great. What's it to you?

          Idiots like you sharing quackery. People like you are why these ideas are still around. Use some common sense. Is there any reason why water would make sticks cross? No.

          Scientific illiteracy is not something to be proud of.

      The real test is that if it works, it works.
      I once done this many years ago with my dad, while trying to find a water pipe on our farm. He used it do it all the time. We dug four holes around spots were we got a "reading". We hit the pipe on the last reading. How would you explain our first three failed attempts based on your quote?
      My theory... the shovel wasn't wide enough.

        Probably because it only showed you a general area. My reading on the Guardian article was that the water companies using it were using it to find leaks. If it shows them the general area of a leak, then what of it?

    Does the author have any evidence to suggest that it does or doesn't other than posting a pointless screed?You mean besides the point that this is supposed to be the 21st Century, not medieval England? They actually have electronic equipment that does this job quite well.

      Oh, not to forget, they have maps and plans showing where the pipes are nowadays too.

      And of all the injustices in life to get angry about, this one rates a "I'm so angry I could cry" title.

      FFS. Get angry about war, and homelessness and assault, not bulls#%&t like this.

        And let the frauds get away with their scientific ignorance?

          Because they're ripping water customers off? How so? Are they finding and fixing the leaks using a method you don't like? Or are they charging by the hour and using dowsing rods doubles the billable time?

            They are wasting time and money. It doesn't work. You probably have to be around to let them into your property. So they are billing for time playing pretend. And wasting your time.

            Can I come to your house and be paid to play pretend in your backyard please? I'll even give you a free rock that repels tigers.

              So out of interest, how accurate are the drones and other equipment that they use? It seems that if some are using dowsing rods, maybe it's not as easy to find leaks etc, even with drones and other equipment?

                Other equipment probably actually does something. Drones can see patches of green (leak) easier from a height and over a large area for example.

                Dowsing rods do nothing at all. In fact, they are probably worse than chance as if you didn't use them, you'd rely on blueprints etc.

            They are not finding anything.

            How many times does it need to be explained to you that dowsing doesn’t work?

        Maybe YOU can only hold one thing in your mind at a time, but most of us can multitask. This amazing gift allows us to be simultaneously angry at both the debasement of science by government agencies AND "war homelessness and assault" (which petty much sums up the situation on Manus right now -- see? Multitasking FTW)

          And yet here you are, apparently getting angry and commenting on an internet thread about the absolute least of these. I'd save that righteous anger for real issues, not a water company using dowsing rods in a country on the other side of the world...

            Scientific illiteracy should be exposed, especially when tax payers are funding it.

              What difference does it actually make? Can you tell me that? So there's a leak in your water pipe. What do you care how they find it if it gets found and fixed? If your primary point is one of ideology, who cares?

                So you would be happy for homeopaths to treat cancer patients?

                Giving frauds taxpayer money to do nothing?
                That’s an interesting philosophy.

                And no, a dowser isn’t going to find the leak, which is the point.
                Scientific illiteracy and fraud should not be tolerated.

                Last edited 28/11/17 6:35 am

                  Except that
                  a) We're not really talking about cancer.
                  b) As long as they fix the leak, I don't care how they do it.

                  @evan, Except that

                  a) Your logic concerning giving money to frauds applies to all fields, and
                  b) Dowsing will not find the leaks, which is the point.

                  Stop pretending that something that has no basis in reality works.
                  Scientific illiteracy is not something to be proud of.

                  You might as well believe in astrology.

                  Last edited 29/11/17 6:38 am

                  @ijameson, except that...
                  a) we're still not talking about cancer
                  b) As long as they fix the leak, I don't care how they do it.

    Literally just a whinge. Just an ignorant opinion from an impatient, ignorant person.

    I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I can prove or disprove divining rods, but come on mate, what an armchair opinion about a profession you know nothing about.

    I can say for a fact that I have seen water diving work in a variety of different applications, from finding water leaks, to broken sewer mains, to placing a water bore hole. Maybe it's pure luck, maybe it's all guess work, or maybe it's pure garbage, but I have used divining rods myself and have seen it work. You holing a couple sticks and pretending to know what you are doing disproves nothing other than your competency as a journalist.

      Like I said above: There's a guaranteed Nobel Prize waiting for you or any other diviner that can consistently beat chance. If global fame and a million dollars cash isn't enough to motivate anyone to complete what should be a fairly simple trial, then we're looking at one of those situations where absence of evidence really is evidence of absence.

      My father used to use wires divining for gem stones (or rather likely spots where they may be located). The logic being that the gems were often found in gravel that was magnetic. So the wires would move because of the weak magnetic fields.

      I assume water dowsing is thought to operate on a similar principle, that pipes or maybe the flowing water generate a weak field and make the rods move. Of course, that's using rods rather than the old Y shaped stick. I can't see any (even dubious) scientific logic behind using a stick.

      I can say for a fact that you have no idea what you are talking about.

      They don’t work, and never have.

        Give us your facts then mate.

          No, you are making a claim, so you have to prove it.

          But we all know you are lying because you are sitting on your computer arguing about this, not enjoying global fame and millions of dollars like you would get if you were able to prove it. So argue away fool, hahaha.

      Anecdotal evidence, Always truthful and conviently can never be disproven.

    Just like placebos, divining can work, but the practitioner may be unconsciously responding to other evidence. Whatever is happening, there is no harm if you pay by results. They are not using magic to FIX the leaks.

      Only problem is if they charge by the hour, and walk around for 45mins 'finding' the pipe they know is there because they have the blueprint. 40mins of extra locating time means perhaps that (in theory at least) these guys are wasting time and either making extra money, or time-stealing from their company.

    One day, when seemingly-implausible phenomena such as quantum entanglement are truly understood, perhaps some of the 'impossible' phenomena described as 'supernatural' which we are presently so quick ridicule may be instead shown to be manifestations of quantum mechanics.

    Good scientists keep an open mind, even as they point to something's implausibility relative to the current extent of human knowledge.

    Last edited 24/11/17 12:14 am

      There is nothing scientific about dowsing.

      Entanglement has been confirmed by many experiments.
      Dowsing has failed many experiments.

      A good scientist will look at the results, and reject dowsing.

        Congrats, you completely missed the point.

    works if you use the headphones dangling from your iphone. Doesn’t work with Android. Pity the iphone 8 doesn’t have a headphone jack. Doesn’t work with the adaptor.

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