Editor's Note - Witching for water

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By Tom McDonald

I first heard about them in the Appalachia Mountain region of Eastern Kentucky — “diviners” they were called there. And last week, one of them — a native of Trujillo who now lives in Las Vegas, came to see me.

Salvadore Higgins said he’s been “witching” for water since the late 1970s. His ability to find underground water veins by walking around with a wire in his hand must be a God-given talent, he said. And, indeed, there is no conclusive scientific explanation for what he does.

Water witching, or dowsing as it is also known by, is a way to find groundwater with a forked stick, rod or wire. There is no widely accepted explanation for it, no scientific proof that it even works. I have heard that certain magnetic forces are at work, but any sort of clear explanation for it escapes me.

It’s easy to be skeptical that there’s anything real to it, but there are a lot of people who swear by it. Higgins is one — and not just because he says he can do it, but also because he’s seen others do it even better than him.

Higgins said he’s good at finding “veins” of underground streams, and especially good at finding where these veins merge. But he said he knows others who can not only find the water but accurately gauge the depth and volume as well.

Several months ago, Higgins got the attention of City Hall — finally. In talking with Higgins, City Manager Timothy Dodge and now-former city council member Diane Moore about it, I’ve pieced together this story:

Years ago, while out witching in or around the base of KFUN hill, Higgins found some water coming out of the ground. He took the information to City Hall, repeatedly, that there was water gushing out of the ground, but nobody would go to check it out. They thought it was simply seepage from the Storrie Lake canal running through that area.

Finally, he talked with then-council Moore and then Mayor Alfonso Ortiz about it, and they took it seriously enough to go with him to the site. A sample of the water was tested for chlorine residuals, and sure enough it was treated city water — a huge leak in a city water line.

Dodge said the city was losing 300 gallons per minute from that single leak. I did the math — that’s more than 150 million gallons of water per year.

Understand that it wasn’t Higgins’ witching that found the leak, but it did lead him to the leak. He had followed some of those veins he had found (or, perhaps, the buried water line itself) and that led him to it.

Understand also that Moore has seen him witch for water, and she’s convinced he can do it. “I believe he has that gift,” she told me.

Interestingly, Dodge told me about working with a construction company in Santa Rosa, the Rivera Construction Co., about six years ago that used a water witch to help locate water lines and where they connected. I didn’t get a name, but Higgins also spoke about a man “over in Santa Rosa” who is quite good at witching for water, but he’s expensive too.

Higgins will also witch for water, for $75 to $100 depending on the job.

Personally, I don’t need to find groundwater under my property, but if I did, I think I’d hire the man, if for no other reason than to see him in action.

Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or tmcdonald@lasvegasoptic.com.