Meet the Water Witches of California

Good morning.

I first heard about the occult observe of water divining in Australia.

There, very similar to in California, warmth, drought and wildfires ravage the panorama. In the nation’s most up-to-date drought, farmers contended with shrinking aquifers and drying-up rivers, whereas cities got here near operating out of water. The impacts of local weather change wreaked havoc on the atmosphere, threatening Australia’s very means of life.

These similarities had been clear after I arrived in America final month, solely to be met with a blistering warmth wave throughout the Western United States that melted roads and obliterated earlier warmth data. In Sonoma County, the area the place I dwell, farmers’ faucets are being switched off, and vintners are digging ever deeper for water.

The scenario is determined. And I puzzled: Who would possibly profit from that desperation?

“I don’t want to say business is booming, or business is good, but business is very, very, very busy,” Augie Guardino, a second-generation well-driller based mostly in Santa Clara County informed me. “When business is good for us, it’s not good for the rest of the community.”

He’s “similar to a mortician,” he mentioned.

Likewise, Rob Thompson mentioned he was swamped.

“This is my busiest I think I’ve ever been in my life,” he mentioned. Thompson 53, is a water diviner, or a water witch: He says he can find groundwater in the fractures of the earth’s bedrock, utilizing simply two rods and a hunch.

The methodology is believed to have come into vogue in the Middle Ages in Europe, and is “totally without scientific merit,” in keeping with the National Ground Water Association, a gaggle of consultants, together with hydrogeologists, that promotes accountable water use.

But that has not stopped farmers and land managers from hiring Thompson, a second-generation water diviner based mostly in Santa Rosa, who previously co-owned one of Northern California’s largest well-drilling firms and claims to have discovered 1000’s of groundwater websites throughout the state.

ImageA pendulum.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York TimesPictureThompson hammered a stake into the floor to point a attainable nicely website, whereas his spouse, Robyne, famous the location.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

“This is the worst drought I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Thompson mentioned. “In California, we’re going deeper and deeper,” he mentioned of the wells folks had been drilling to entry water.

Just a two-hour drive from the nation’s know-how capital of Silicon Valley, some vineyards proceed to lean on Thompson’s work.

“I haven’t ever used a geologist to find water,” mentioned Johnnie White, the operations supervisor of Piña Vineyard Management, which runs dozens of vineyards in Napa Valley. Still, White acknowledged, “I find it all very far-fetched.”

Last week, I spent the day with Thompson at one of these vineyards, which was burned in final yr’s wildfires, and is flanked by scorched hills and charcoal bushes. Now, the winery’s wells are going dry.

“It’s a disaster,” mentioned Davie Piña, the proprietor of the winery administration firm, as he stood on the cracking earth. “Just what we need,” he added, “after another disaster.”

For extra:

Read the full article about California’s water witches.

Follow dwell updates from the wildfires burning throughout the West.

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