Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

I get very interesting questions. The ones that keep awake the scientist in me always. Recently I got one such question. One student asked me, " Can ground water be found using coconuts?" It seems he watched a video on line and he also sent me the link to it. Now I am adding it here  for people reading this article  to watch it too. 

Amazing, people say! Is it really? No, not according to scientists based at US Geological Survey!

This method is technically called 'water dowsing'. It refers in general to the practice of using a forked stick, rod, pendulum, or similar device to locate underground water, minerals, or other hidden or lost substances,and has been a subject of discussion and controversy for hundreds of years.

Although tools and methods vary widely, most dowsers (also called diviners or water witches) probably still use the traditional forked stick, which may come from a variety of trees, including the willow, peach, and witchhazel. Other dowsers may use keys, wire coathangers, pliers, wire rods, pendulums, or various kinds of elaborate boxes and electrical instruments.

In the classic method of using a forked stick, one fork is held in each hand with the palms upward . The bottom or butt end of the "Y" is pointed skyward at an angle of about 45 degrees. The dowser then walks back and forth over the area to be tested. When she/he passes over a source of water, the butt end of the stick is supposed to rotate or be attracted downward.

Inline image 1

A water dowsing stick : source: Google

Water dowsers practice mainly in rural or suburban communities where residents are uncertain as to how to locate the best and cheapest supply of groundwater. Because the drilling and development of a well often costs lots of money, homeowners are  reluctant to gamble on a dry hole and turn to the water dowser for advice.

But according to real science ...

Case histories and demonstrations of dowsers may seem convincing, but when dowsing is exposed to scientific examination, it presents a very different picture. The natural explanation of "successful" water dowsing is that in many areas underground water is so prevalent close to the land surface that it would be hard to drill a well and not find water. In a region of adequate rainfall and favourable geology, it is difficult not to drill and find water!

Some water exists under the Earth's surface almost everywhere. This explains why many dowsers appear to be successful. To locate groundwater accurately, however, as to depth, quantity, and quality, a number of techniques must be used . Hydrologic, geologic, and geophysical knowledge is needed to determine the depths and extent of the different water-bearing strata and the quantity and quality of water found in each . The area must be thoroughly tested and studied to determine these facts.

Now watch this video... 

Why couldn't the person able to replicate the same result with his left hand? YES, WHY?!

Maybe because his left hand doesn't know the trick and sleight of his right hand!

And will I keep quiet? I went ahead and tested it myself. I neither got the same result with the coconut nor with the egg! Both refused to stand up in my hand!

How can I believe it then? I asked a dowser the same question. His reply was: "It only occurs with certain people and it seems that you are not one of them". Hah! What a pity. Perhaps the coconut and the egg wanted me to expose the truth! 

A dowser at work will show you how the coconut is moving in an arc like direction, at a place. But, if you try doing the same with the same  coconut at the same place, you will be faced with failure and the coconut does not move even a centimeter. You can try it yourself!

However, in the places where the dowsers dig, there will be a 90% probability of finding water. So, it doesn't matter whether he dowses or not there is a chance of finding the water, anywhere in the land area. All he does is make a fool out of people who are ready to get fooled and does a good amount of cash.

Dowsing is considered a pseudoscience, and there is no scientific evidence that it is any more effective than random chance. (1,2)

So, never ever consult a dowser. If you want to find out the amount and place of underground water, go to a  hydrologist who can test scientifically and give you an accurate result.

How do hydrologists find water? By using genuine scientific methods!

To locate groundwater accurately and to determine the depth, quantity, and quality of the water, several techniques must be used, and a target area must be thoroughly tested and studied to identify hydrologic and geologic features important to the planning and management of the resource. The landscape may offer clues to the hydrologist about the occurrence of shallow groundwater. Conditions for large quantities of shallow groundwater are more favourable under shallow valleys than under hills. The presence of "water-loving" plants, such as cottonwoods or willows, indicates groundwater at moderate depth. Areas where water is at the surface as springs, seeps, swamps, or lakes reflect the presence of groundwater, although not necessarily in large quantities or of usable quality.

Rocks are the most valuable clues of all. As a first step in locating favourable conditions for groundwater development, the hydrologist prepares geologic maps and cross sections showing the distribution and positions of the different kinds of rocks, both on the surface and underground. Some sedimentary rocks may extend many miles as aquifers of fairly uniform permeability. Other types of rocks may be cracked and broken and contain openings large enough to carry water. Types and orientation of joints or other fractures may be clues to obtaining useful amounts of groundwater. Some rocks may be so folded and displaced that it is difficult to trace them underground.

Next, a hydrologist obtains information on the wells in the target area. The locations, depth to water, amount of water pumped, and types of rocks penetrated by wells also provide information on groundwater. Wells are tested to determine the amount of water moving through the aquifer, the volume of water that can enter a well, and the effects of pumping on water levels in the area. Chemical analysis of water from wells provides information on quality of water in the area.

So the answer to the question "Can coconuts find ground water for you?" is a big "NO"!
This is what a hydrologist said after reading this article...If a coconut could really detect water, all the coconuts from trees (planted near the oceans and riverbanks) would never remain on the tree…. they would jump off into the oceans and rivers long before they ripen.


1. Vogt, Evon Z.; Ray Hyman (1979). Water Witching U.S.A. (2nd ed.). Chicago: Chicago University Press. ISBN 978-0-226-86297-2. via Hines, Terence (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal (Second ed.). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. p. 420. ISBN 978-1-57392-979-0.
2. Regal, Brian. (2009). Pseudoscience: A Critical Encyclopedia. Greenwood Press. pp. 55–57. ISBN 978-0-313-35507-3

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