Saturday, August 4, 2007

In Race to Find Water, It's Science vs. 'Witchers'

...That's because Western states such as California and Arizona are experiencing a well-drilling boom, amid one of the driest stretches in years and a surge of new properties being built in areas off the municipal water system.

Property developers typically look to modern technology first, hiring geologists to search for water using high-tech tools such as satellite imagery and magnetotellurics (a method of creating images of things beneath the earth's surface).

But because their investments could flop without a water source, developers building luxury resorts, orchards and wineries off the water grid aren't taking any chances. Some are hiring witchers as well as geologists, pitting them against each other in the water hunt. Meanwhile, some well drillers have witchers on staff. Other drillers offer witcher referrals or subcontract with independent witchers.

Steve Arthur, vice president of Arthur & Orum Well Drilling Inc. in Fresno, Calif., says that witchers can be effective. "Our customers just want water and dowsers find water," says Mr. Arthur.

Delectus, the winery, hired Mr. Thompson after geologists' data purportedly led to dry wells. Mr. Thompson charges $200 an hour, plus $10 for each gallon per minute produced in a well he has located. He gets paid his hourly rate whether or not he finds water. When a well yields abundant water, he says he can make $7,500 in a day's work, though he sees only a couple such days a year....

From the Wall Street Journal Online