Wells and Dowsers

If you live in a rural area that’s off a municipal water grid, chances are you depend upon a well for your water. Well water can become polluted with natural or manmade contaminants, and even when these contaminants don’t pose a health threat, they can interfere with the flavor of your water. Water purification systems remove trace metals, potentially harmful bacteria and other contaminants that may make your well water taste unpleasant.

A Brief History of Wells

Human beings have been depending upon wells for their water for more than 8,000 years. In Atlit Yam, Israel, a Neolithic well site has been discovered that dates back to 8100-7500 BC. Some of the earliest archeological evidence of wells comes from China. The famous Chinese divination text “The I-Ching,” for example, which was written during the Western Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BC) contains numerous allusions to wells.

Throughout the end of the 18th century, digging a well was a laborious process that was done entirely by hand. In 1808, however, the first mechanical drilling rigs were introduced. They were succeeded in the last 20 years of the 19th century by steam-powered drilling presses.

After Howard Hughes Sr. invented the roller cone drill bit in 1908, rotary drilling became the technology of choice for well excavations. Drilling is still the most widely used technology in well construction today because drills can penetrate very deeply, which reduces the risk of water contamination.


Before the 20th century, one of the most popular methods of finding a water involved hiring a dowser. Dowsers are people who claim to have a sixth sense where finding water is concerned.

Although geologists dismiss dowsing as a sham, dowsers often have a surprising degree of success. A recent research expedition in Sri Lanka that was sponsored by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit found that dowsers had a 96 percent success rate in locating water sources. Geologists remain unconvinced by these results, though: They point out that if you drill down deeply enough, you can find water practically anywhere.

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