Institute for Water & Watershed
Oregon State University
Todd Jarvis has over 35 years of experience in the groundwater engineering industry with an equal number of years studying water witching and dowsing. He is a professional geologist, engineering geologist, water right examiner, and mediator. Todd is the Director of the Institute for Water & Watersheds at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, one of the 54 Water Resources Research Institutes distributed across the United States and US territories. He also teaches Environmental Conflict Resolution at the University of Oregon Law School. He is the author of the book Contesting Hidden Waters: Conflict Resolution for Groundwater and Aquifers. Todd was a past member of the American Society of Dowsers which lead to his first and only experience as a dowser.
Water witching, or dowsing, is part of the folklore associated with groundwater. Anyone who works with groundwater or relies on well water has relatives that are dowsers, knows someone in their community who has "witched" wells, has heard stories or has directly observed the marvels of the water finder. Documentation of the dowsing predates the first geologic maps by 400 years. The number of dowsers in the United States approaches tens of thousands compared to the few thousand practicing hydrologists. Water witching and dowsing become media darlings during droughts. Professional boards attempting to limit the practice have run afoul of the dowsers First Amendment rights. Professional associations promoting the practice of dowsing are well organized and have a long history debating the location and movement of groundwater with state and federal water agencies.
- Synthesize the history and geographic breadth of water witching and dowsing.
- Recognize that water witching and dowsing is a variant of Traditional Ecological Knowledge that is perceived both as a divine gift and a learned skill.
- Appraise the identity-based conflicts and conceptual models of hydrologists and water finders.
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