Late afternoon, Panorama Park, Wheat Ridge.
Greg Storozuk stands beneath a pine tree. Sprinklers hiss in the background, a breeze blows in from the north, a kid rolls by on a scooter, the May sun burns through a milky sky.
"To any question in life," he begins, "the answer is already known. All the dowser has to do is ask the right questions."
Storozuk slips a set of plastic L-shaped rods from a leather holster at his right hip and aims them straight ahead, like a kid drawing toy pistols.
He faces east.
"Now, I look at this as though it is my piece of property," he says. "And if I owned this land, where would I drill a water well?"
He closes his eyes and tilts his head slightly forward.
"Am I ready to dowse now?"
The rods slowly open, like a pair of butterfly wings.
"For me, that means the answer is yes," he says. "If they close, it means no."
Storozuk closes his eyes.
"From where I'm standing, right here, right now, where is the nearest underground vein: fresh, flowing drinking water?"
He waits a moment and repeats his question.
"From where I'm standing, right here, right now, where is the nearest underground vein: fresh, flowing drinking water?"
The rods swing slowly to the north.
After four consecutive mild winters, Colorado stares at its driest summer in decades. With such a light mountain snowpack, rivers trickle at a fraction of their normal flows. Reservoirs sink week by week; irrigation canals lie empty. Wheat fields shrivel away; forest timber stands as dry as matchsticks. Nuns pray for another miracle at the Mother Cabrini wellspring.
Headlines scream the news: "S. Colorado driest in 100 years." "'Biblical' level help needed." "Dolores River too dry to cry."
Governor Bill Owens has asked the federal government to declare the entire state a drought emergency area. Forest officials and county authorities have banned campfires. Colorado Springs has shut off public fountains and limited irrigation of public lands. Aurora has set mandatory lawn-watering schedules and raised fines for heavy water users. Denver has shut off its public fountains, too, and requested voluntary conservation. Lafayette has offered to pay farmers to stop watering crops.
As June approaches, water authorities look toward summer rains to bail them out.
Hal Simpson, state engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources: "This is a very serious situation. In some parts of the southern half of the state, we have what may be the driest year on record."
Brad Lundahl, chairman of the Colorado Drought Task Force: "Because we can't predict the future, we have to take it very seriously, especially in agricultural terms. Yeah, it's pretty bad."
Ralph Curtis, manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District: "For people who rely strictly on surface water, this is going to be a long, hot summer."
"To dowse is to search for anything lost, missing or badly needed."
-- Christopher Bird, The Divining Hand: The 500-Year-Old Mystery of Dowsing.
His friends call him a lone wolf, but Greg Storozuk is more of a bear. He can be gruff, solemn, wary and formidable, a 56-year-old balding, big-bellied, blue-eyed bachelor who spends each Christmas day wandering cemeteries.
"I like the solitude," he says. "Maybe I'm among friends; I don't know."
Storozuk has been a full-time, professional dowser for over twenty years. He's served as president of the American Society of Dowsers. He's given numerous lectures, demonstrations and dowsing classes. He's manufactured dowsing supplies. He's written various articles, booklets and reports. And for fees ranging from gas money to $300 a day, he's used dowsing to locate water wells, petroleum reservoirs, toxic energy grids, lost septic tanks, pesky insects and angry ghosts.
On many days, he wears faded blue jeans, a cotton T-shirt and white slip-on shoes. Sunglasses dangle from his neck; a floppy leather hat sits on his head. The aroma of tobacco follows him like an apparition. When he's not reclining in his cluttered Edgewater home with a pet cockatoo named Frito perched upon his shoulder, he's searching for oil reserves with a handheld pendulum and a set of geological maps or hunting underground water veins in some weedy field with nothing more than a clear mind and a pair of dowsing rods.
He's polite, friendly and talkative -- once he gets going -- but he does have definite subjects he won't discuss. Like his clients. He will not, under any circumstances, divulge the names, addresses or telephone numbers of the people he works with. Given the unorthodox nature of his business, he maintains strict confidentiality agreements. Push too hard and he'll take a drag from an American Spirit cigarette, stare straight ahead and let the silence linger like the white smoke leaking from his mouth. Then he'll tap away the ash, twist his mouth and politely change the subject.
"Either you have a confidentiality agreement or you don't," he says.
Over the years, he's been heckled, ridiculed and dismissed so many times that he's lost count. Even his own brother, a retired editor in New York, thinks he's weird. But that's okay with him. He doesn't care what most people think. He doesn't seek the spotlight. He doesn't advertise his services. His clients find him through word-of-mouth recommendations from previous customers and other dowsers.
Storozuk has come forward now only because of Colorado's drought. He thinks he can help, he says. In fact, his phone has already has begun to ring.
"What I do is not something you plan for in life," he explains. "It's just something that happened. I have a college education; I gave up a lot. If I'd stayed in my old job, I'd be retired by now. But for me, this is a philosophy; it's a way of life. In my heart, I feel it's right. I really believe I can help people in ways that others cannot. It's that simple."
It has been called many things in many places over many, many years: dowsing, divining, water-witching and doodlebugging. Historians, scholars and students claim to have found representations of dowsing in prehistoric cave art, Egyptian temples, Chinese etchings and Greek scrolls; there are references to the ancient craft in the Bible. In practically every culture on every continent, particularly Europe, dowsers have used branches, pendulums, L-shaped rods, Y-shaped rods and bobbing sticks to seek water, minerals and spiritual knowledge.
Many dowsers describe their abilities as something like a sixth sense, which they use to tap into a "universal consciousness" to seek answers to the unknown. In his 1979 book, The Divining Hand: The 500-Year-Old Mystery of Dowsing, the late Christopher Bird offered anecdote after anecdote about dowsers who'd found everything from gushing water wells to sunken treasure to cancer-causing energy fields. Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate Paul Clement Brown reportedly found the ten oil wells near Long Beach, California, that gave Occidental Petroleum its start. California dowser Verne Cameron discovered the underground water vein that filled what had been a dry Lake Elsinore. George McClean, a chemical engineer from Maine, even dowsed the arrival time of oil tankers. General George Patton used a dowser during World War II to find water in North Africa. In Vietnam, the U.S. Marines found tunnels with dowsers.
To back up their claims, dowsers cite not just specific successes, but scientific studies. Hans-Dieter Betz, a physicist from the University of Munich, conducted a ten-year project funded by the German government that teamed dowsers with geological experts and drilled more than 2,000 wells in Sri Lanka, Zaire, Kenya, Namibia, Yemen and other arid countries. In Sri Lanka alone, Betz claims, dowsers tallied a 96 percent success rate where conventional techniques would likely have had a success rate of 50 percent or less.
"What is both puzzling yet enormously useful is that in hundreds of cases, the dowsers were able to predict the depth of the water source and the yield of the well to within 10 or 20 percent," Betz writes in his report titled "Unconventional Water Detection: Field Test of the Dowsing Technique in Dry Zones." "We carefully considered the statistics of these correlations, and they far exceeded lucky guesses."
In another study, Dr. Zaboj Harvalik, a now-deceased physicist from Virginia, conducted a series of shielded experiments with German dowser Wilhelm De Boer; Harvalik claimed to have isolated the source of the dowsing sensors in the human body to the pineal/pituitary portion of the brain and the adrenal region above the kidneys. And a third study, by Dr. Edith Jurka, a physician with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, determined that dowsers have different brain-wave patterns. Using a device called the "Mind Mirror," Jurka tested seven gifted dowsers, including Storozuk, and found that they have an awareness level greater than that of yoga masters.
Nonsense, says James Randi, an investigator of "the paranormal, the psychic and the just plain weird." He and other skeptics dismiss dowsing as involuntary body movements, the power of suggestion, or subtle electromagnetic or geological forces in the earth. Randi has even issued a challenge to dowsers: Prove your abilities in a controlled setting, he says, and he'll pay you $1 million.
So far, the prize remains unclaimed.
"They all fail when properly and fairly tested," Randi writes in "The Matter of Dowsing," an article posted on his Web site (www.randi.org). "There are no exceptions. Each dowser goes away from any trial of their powers, dismayed by their failure, puzzled at the reasons for the failure, but always capable of coming up with a reasonable -- to them -- excuse. These are persons who are genuinely, thoroughly, self-deceived."
And if a dowser does find water in some farmer's field, Randi has an explanation: "Drill a well almost anywhere where water is geologically possible and you will find it. The sad fact is that dowsers are no better at finding water than anyone else."
Despite such detractors, the ranks of dowsers steadily grow. The Vermont-based, forty-year-old American Society of Dowsers boasts an exhaustive Web site (www.dowsers.org) and a membership of 5,000 people spread among 85 chapters nationwide.
When science, technology and tradition fail, people look elsewhere.
More and more, they look to dowsers.
Greg Storozuk grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, a small town surrounded by forests and swamps. His father was a lithographer and his mother was a housewife, and he and his older brother led mostly quiet, happy lives in the glow after World War II. After school, they'd slip outside with the neighborhood kids, into the thick stands of oak and maple near their home. Storozuk would stay outdoors for hours, playing games and picking blackberries. But as he grew up, the town grew up around him, and the forests soon disappeared.
"By the time I was eighteen, it was gone," he recalls.
After high school, where he ran track and played football, Storozuk served six years in the Coast Guard, patrolling the Arctic Circle and cracking ice flows for supply ships. When his tour ended, he returned home, later attending college in Colorado on the GI Bill. Hoping to translate his love of sports and nature into a full-time job, he studied municipal recreation at Western State in Gunnison, where he renewed his love of the woods.
In 1972, after receiving his degree, Storozuk visited a cousin in Norwich, New York, who owned a 36-acre chunk of woodland. His cousin planned to build a home there, but first he needed a well. Instead of contacting a geologist or hydrologist, he'd grabbed a pair of welding rods, bent them into an "L" and searched for an underground vein.
"When he told me what he had done, I said it was the biggest bunch of shit I'd ever heard in my life," Storozuk recalls. "I had just graduated from college, and I thought I knew everything. There was no science behind it. It was all just folklore. He listened very patiently for a while, then turned the rods around, held them out for me and said, 'Here, damn it. You try.'"
Storozuk didn't know how to start. So his cousin told him: "You know what a stream looks like, don't you?"
"Well, picture what one looks like in your mind, but underground. Then walk."
Storozuk held the rods as instructed, imagining an underground stream. When the rods began to move -- on their own -- he followed. Fifteen minutes later, the rods crossed and Storozuk stopped abruptly, about a hundred yards from the cousin's trailer, in the middle of nowhere.
"I'll be damned," said Storozuk's cousin, kicking away a clump of dirt. There, beneath his foot, was a red stake he'd planted several days earlier: This was the exact spot the dowsing rods had led him to.
"There was no way could I see that stake in the ground," Storozuk remembers. "It was completely covered. When I saw it, no one was more surprised than me. Could you imagine walking around a thirty-plus-acre piece of land and finding a wooden stake? I didn't need any more convincing. That was enough."
Not long afterward, his cousin pulled the stake and drilled. And he hit water.
Storozuk returned to Fair Lawn and took a job with the town's recreation department. But while he planned parades and organized soccer leagues, he thought about dowsing.
"It nagged at me," he says. "Here was this thing that happened, but I didn't know how it happened or why. It was so fascinating, I had to follow."
It turned out that his interest was hereditary: His great-uncle had been a dowser in Arizona, though he didn't learn that until much later. Now Storozuk read everything he could about dowsing, which in Fair Lawn meant about two books. He sought the advice of college-educated friends, who told him it was "nonsense." He even consulted two priests, who asked if Storozuk thought he was doing something wrong. When he said no, they told him "not to worry," he remembers.
He began to practice dowsing. But without formal instruction, he found himself "shooting in the dark." So he enrolled in a now-defunct dowsing school in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where he learned to use a pendulum and a map to seek hidden objects.
Curious, but still not committed, Storozuk attended his first American Society of Dowsers convention in Danville, Vermont, in 1976. He expected to find only a handful of eccentrics but wound up surrounded by 600 participants, "just kind of orbiting around all this weirdness and wondering whether I wanted to get involved." He floated between overall-clad farmers and blue-suited businessmen, listening to one lecture after another. One particular demonstration piqued his interest: Dowser Dwin Gordon said he was going to move an underground water vein into a dry well with only a jackhammer bit and a sledgehammer.
"I'd never heard of anything so ridiculous in all my life," Storozuk remembers. "I went along to watch this guy make a fool of himself."
In a field near a farmhouse, Gordon stood beside a dry hole twelve feet deep. Then the old dowser picked up a pair of L-shaped rods and surveyed the meadow.
"Yep," he announced. "Got a vein of water right here about eight feet deep. And we're going to drive it into that dry hole over there."
On cue, Gordon's partner produced a steel bar and pounded it in the direction of the hole.
"Okay," the master dowser told him. "That's enough."
Gordon tracked the progress of the water. "Yep. The vein is right here," he said. "But it ain't quite there."
He cracked a joke or two to pass the time and then checked the water's progress.
Gordon predicted that the water would break in the hole at eight feet, six inches, because "when you move water veins, they drop about six inches."
One of the onlookers ran to his car and grabbed a tape measure and a few flashlights. Storozuk shoved his way to the rim and peered inside.
"All of a sudden," he recalls, "and I swear to Christ almighty. It was the damnedest thing I ever saw in my life. The side of the hole, a little below the eight-foot-six-inch mark, starts to look like a blotter. Then a couple of crumbs of dirt come out. Then a little trickle of water. Then PSSHH! It looks like a fire hose!"
Storozuk knelt at the edge, shaking his head.
"It's impossible," he remembers thinking. "This just can't happen."
Just then, the guy with the tape measure said: "Dwin. You were off."
"What do you mean?"
"It's eight feet, six inches...and a half."
"Oh, well," Gordon said. "We'll have to call that one a miss. Let's go find ourselves another."
Storozuk stayed put while the crowd left, watching the hole fill with water.
"I couldn't believe it," he recalls. "It was just the weirdness of it. But it worked! Right there, a whole world opened up before my eyes."
Storozuk jumped into dowsing with both feet. He joined the American Society of Dowsers, studied under dowsing masters such as Gordon (who has since died), and tested his skills in exchange for gasoline money. Although in New Jersey he stood to inherit his boss's job in the recreation center, that now seemed like a prison sentence.
So Storozuk moved to Colorado and the mountains he loved, working a string of petty jobs and dowsing on the side.
"Everywhere I worked, someone needed water," he says. "Eventually, it got to the point where something had to go -- either these nothing jobs or my dowsing. It was a simple choice, but a scary one. I didn't know if I could do it full-time."
In 1981, Storozuk turned pro anyway. He wasn't exactly flooded with clients, but they did trickle in. He joined dowsing groups in Colorado Springs and Denver; he taught workshops and seminars; he manufactured dowsing supplies. That year, he became the American Society of Dowsers' "Dowser of the Year." Five years later he was elected president of the group.
At an ASD conference in California not long after he became a professional dowser, Storozuk was approached by a tall, gangly man in an ill-fitting suit who needed help finding water on his Oklahoma ranch. Storozuk took the job. A few days later, the two met at Centennial Airport outside Denver. Storozuk swung his pendulum over a series of maps and pointed out the spots where he thought there was water.
The rancher, who turned out to "practically own the entire Oklahoma panhandle," Storozuk says, fetched him a few weeks later in his private plane. On his first day on the ranch, Storozuk dowsed fourteen wells. Wherever he went, a drilling rig followed.
"They didn't wait for me to drive a stake," he recalls. "I'd tell them my recommendation, and about ten minutes later, the rig arrived."
The rancher was impressed. Storozuk even located water at a spot neither had anticipated, a feedlot. During a break in the action, the rancher complained that his cattle weren't getting enough water from his existing wells, so Storozuk offered to find something better. The rancher unhinged the gate, and in a valley between the two hillside wells, Storozuk announced, "You've got about 250 gallons a minute right here."
The rancher and the foreman exchanged glances, and the driller drilled.
"Sure enough," Storozuk remembers, "Bloosh! Here comes the water. The driller says, 'It's coming in at about 250 gallons per minute."
In all, Storozuk located 28 wells in two days. Of those, 26 produced water. The two that did not were his last finds of the day, which Storozuk says indicated he had pushed himself beyond his limit.
"The smallest produced 250 gallons a minute," he says, "and the biggest did about 1,200. That was the largest well I ever did."
There's no mystery to what he does, Storozuk says. Anyone can dowse; all they have to do is "open their consciousness and allow it to work."
"To me, it all comes down to communication," he says. "Dowsing is a language, a way of communicating with nature. Since we're all a part of nature, why can't we communicate with it? Our planet has the same percentage of water as our bodies. We all need water to survive. I believe it's an inbred thing to locate water in a natural way. Animals do it. Elephants do it all the time. And since we're the superior species, I assume we have the same capability."
The key, Storozuk explains, is entering into a state of "passive awareness," which allows the dowser to receive and interpret information. Each dowser has a different way of doing this, but Storozuk begins each morning with a meditative process that clears his mind and tunes his antenna. Then he asks a series of questions to see if he's in the right state to dowse. If he is, he proceeds to the next step: identifying his target.
Dowsers must be specific in their search, he says. Some dowsers use visualization techniques to sharpen their targets; others use held objects. Once a target is identified, dowsers then refine their inquiry using precise questions that can be answered only by "Yes" or "No." The more specific the question, the better. If the questions are muddled, the answers can be subject to misinterpretation.
"It's just like a computer," Storozuk says. "Garbage in, garbage out."
Interpretation is the final step. This is where instruments often come in. Dowsers use a variety of tools, including L-rods, Y-rods or pendulums. Some use no tools at all. No instrument is better than the other; they are simply indicators.
"This is your tool," Storozuk says, tapping his temple. "Your mind."
With training, practice and the proper mindset, dowsers can find just about anything, Storozuk says. And these days, they do. Modern dowsers use their abilities to select vitamins, examine auras and communicate with the dead (see related story). In fact, contemporary dowsers are focusing so much on other applications that water dowsing is becoming "a dying art," Storozuk says.
Storozuk is from the old school. Although he's used dowsing to remove spiders from a friend's house, find missing checkbooks and clear a troublesome spirit from a buddy, he believes that dowsers should first learn to find fresh water -- and find it reliably -- before moving on. Everything, he believes, starts with water.
And old-school dowsers have a different theory about that, too. Instead of relying upon traditional geological and hydrological views of evaporation, transpiration and runoff, dowsers subscribe to this theory: Gravity draws water from the earth's surface toward the planet's core, where it is superheated into steam. Forced by extreme pressure, the steam then branches back toward the surface from vast storage domes through a network of cracks, crevasses and fissures.
"Imagine the roots and branches of a tree," Storozuk explains. "It's just like that."
Eventually, the steam cools, condenses and forms subterranean rivers, streams and tributaries, which are constantly moving, continuously replenished and forever fresh. Aquifers, on the other hand, might be hemmed in by rock formations and become depleted by wells like "straws in a soup bowl," he says.
The trick for dowsers is pinpointing these underground veins, which can be as difficult as "dropping a dart on a string from eye level." And that's why water is a good yardstick of a dowser's ability, he says.
"Water is tangible," Storozuk continues. "It is either there or it isn't. If you say it's there, you drill and you find water, then you've proved it."
Dowsing for oil is essentially the same as dowsing for water, although Storozuk tends to rely more on maps than walking the fields with L-rods. A petroleum company will send him geological representations of areas they're investigating, and he'll survey the terrain with a hand-held pendulum, which guides him "like a puppy on a leash," he says. When the pendulum begins to move in a circular, clockwise motion, he focuses his search until he defines the approximate shape and location of what he thinks are oil deposits. The companies then send in their own scientific teams to investigate. If those teams confirm Storozuk's data, wells are drilled.
"I wouldn't work with anyone who drills only on my say-so," he says. "All I've done is narrow the search. I just go in and say, 'This is where you need to focus.' Whether they drill is entirely up to them. So far, they've never said that they haven't found something. In fact, I've got a well going down this June."
But that's not to say that he hasn't made mistakes. Last year in Aspen, he recommended a water-well site that turned up clay, which is notorious for confusing dowsers because of the high water content and fluid conditions.
"Was that well a failure? Yeah," Storozuk says. "But I had to give it my best shot. At least now I'm aware that there's clay in the area. Next time, I'll form a question that eliminates clay and focuses only on flowing water."
Dowsers are human; they screw up like everyone else.
"A lot of people are fearful of making mistakes," Storozuk says. "Like it's a real tragedy or something. It's just an experience. It's neither good nor bad. You've got to make mistakes. The only way you're going to learn is by putting yourself on the line. Nobody is 100 percent. If you screw up, you learn from it; you move on."
Through trial and error, Storozuk says, he's raised his success rate to 95 percent.
"I'm not the greatest dowser in the world," he adds. "I do the best I can with what I've learned. It's not my philosophy to stand out there and say how great you are. You go by your results. By your deeds, by your actions. I've been doing this professionally for twenty years, so I must be doing something right."
Marian Tesitor thinks so.
For 25 years, Tesitor has suffered from chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome. At times she was so weak that she couldn't climb the stairs at her home. She consulted experts at Johns Hopkins; she tried homeopathic remedies. Out of desperation, she called Storozuk, whom she'd heard about from an alternative healer. Storozuk could locate and remove unhealthy energy fields in her home, the man told her.
"Desperation makes you pretty open-minded," Tesitor says. "I was sick for so long. I had rejected alternative things for years and years. But it got to the point where the doctor said, 'There isn't much traditional medicine can do for you. You have to try anything they offer you alternative-wise.' I was really kind of skeptical. I wasn't convinced anything would work."
Her husband was even more wary. When Storozuk arrived at their Longmont home, her husband stayed in the background. But Tesitor watched closely as Storozuk walked through the house and yard, dowsing for energy grids.
"I followed him everywhere," she says. "He'd find these 'grinds' and then put stakes in the ground to move the energy, I guess. I really don't know what he was doing. It was strange."
As she trailed Storozuk, she began to feel nauseated and "a little bit woozy," she remembers. And by the time Storozuk left, she was "feeling kind of rough." Even her husband said he'd started to feel ill. The malaise lasted for several more days, Tesitor says, and then, suddenly, she "started feeling more energy." So much energy that she and her husband hiked near Estes Park.
"It was amazing," she says. "I was free to realize the things around me rather than focusing on dragging my body. It wasn't a miracle cure, but it was a piece of the puzzle. Even my husband had to admit that something happened."
When the couple needed a new well for their 35-acre spread, Tesitor's husband even consulted a dowser. She wanted to use Storozuk, but he went with the dowser the drilling company recommended. When the well came up dry, she called Storozuk. He found a gusher.
"I think Greg is very gifted," Tesitor says. "I don't think he's a BSer. You run into alternative people who say they'll move the moon and the stars for you and everything will be hunky-dory. But he doesn't come across that way. I don't think he's into it for his ego."
Jack Zordan is a geophysicist who runs American Pioneer Exploration out of Golden. Over the past thirty years, he's conducted geo-thermal work and helped petroleum companies find oil reservoirs. Out in the field, he'd encounter a dowser or two, but he never thought much about them. Even after a colleague used a pair of L-rods to find underground pipes in Illinois, he didn't put much stock in the unorthodox practice. When he heard about a dowser finding oil in Kansas, he laughed.
"I thought it was nuts," Zordan says.
Then he began dating women who used divining techniques to select vitamins and other things. He decided to study dowsing himself. After taking a class from Storozuk, Zordan thought it was time to apply dowsing to his job. He started slowly, holding a pendulum over geological maps to see if he could find potential oil deposits. If he found what he thought was a good prospect, he'd give a version of the same map to Storozuk. If Storozuk found the same thing -- which he did several times -- Zordan gave another blank map to a third dowser, Bo Hanson.
"When two people get the same answer on a blank map, that gets my attention," Zordan says. "When a third person confirms it, that's got me sold."
But no matter what dowsing turns up, Zordan still relies heavily on conventional methods. Only if those methods support the dowsers' findings will he recommend the site. And so far, the results have been good. Next month, an oil company will start drilling a well in the Midwest that was initially pinpointed by the dowsing work of Zordan, Storozuk and others.
"A lot of my peers would think I was just nuts," Zordan admits. "I used to think it was nuts, too. But the results are good. And it's all confirmed with science. Initially, my partner thought I was crazy. Now he's hedging his bets."
In his 22 years as a hydrologist, Tim Decker has encountered dowsers more often than he would like. He has two words for them: "Hocus pocus."
About half of his drilling jobs have come as the result of bad dowsing, says Decker, who operates the Montrose-based West Water Associates. "It's really surprising to me to see people pay a million-plus for a piece of property and a million dollars more for a house, and then bring dowsers to locate a well for them," he says. "Why do people believe in lucky rabbit feet? If it makes you feel better at night, use one. But don't bet on it. And don't pay for their services."
"I don't put much stock in their efforts," agrees Keith Branstetter of Aztec Drilling in Steamboat Springs. "I don't see that they're any better than the law of averages."
Bob Tafelski of HRS Water Consultants in Lakewood is another skeptic. But a dowsing textbook has come in handy in his office, he says: "I pull it out every once in a while to make jokes from it."
Stan Stockton of Alpine Drilling Service in Cañon City is more diplomatic. His crew has drilled on dowsers' recommendations "quite a bit," he says.
"There's no secret formula to finding water. If a dowser is requested, we do not have a problem following them. It seems to give people confidence. Some people even use them in conjunction with a geologist and a hydrologist. It's not necessarily hocus pocus. It's about people's perceptions. Some people think it gives them an edge. The purpose is to find water and to work with the landowner. Any information that's available, we always try to consider."
John O'Brien, of Boulder Water Well Service & Supply, often uses divining rods himself.
"I can't say the success rate of a dowser is a whole lot better than looking at it from a geological aspect," he acknowledges. "But I've actually had pretty good success with it. No one really knows how it works. It does seem to work, though."
But even within O'Brien's own business, this is a matter of dispute. Jason Fegel manages O'Brien's Fort Collins branch, GNC Water Well. He studied geology in college, and his wife is a geologist. Fegel says he's constantly arguing about dowsing with his colleagues, including O'Brien. To settle disputes, they've conducted parking-lot experiments to locate underground water pipes. The amateur dowsers seemed to have the most luck when the flags marking the pipes were visible, Fegel points out.
"Having a scientific background, I don't believe in dowsing as an art," he says. "I've seen some interesting things, but I've never seen anything with dowsing that could say for sure that they found water. My opinion on it is that most of it is in the person's mind."
But Fegel does agree that locating water underground is not a sure thing. Geologists and hydrologists spend considerable time surveying surface rock conditions and using magnetic and radar techniques, but in the end, they, too, have to make a judgment call. And when a client is spending up to $15,000 for a residential well, Fegel can understand how a $100 dowser could bring peace of mind.
"There's a lot of risk in drilling a water well," Fegel says. "And on smaller parcels of land, say 35 acres, there's not much difference between dowser and geologist. Not because there's an equal chance of success, but because most dowsers know surface conditions. I've had happy dowser people and not-happy dowser people. It all depends on who you ask."
Hal Simpson, state engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources, isn't likely to call a dowser -- no matter how bad the drought becomes. It's not that he dismisses their abilities; he's witnessed a successful dowsing himself. But Colorado's drought has been caused by insufficient rain and snow, not because underground water is hard to find. The state already has extensive records on aquifers and wells.
"I don't want to totally discredit it," Simpson says of dowsing. "I won't say no to something that I've seen myself. But they tell us information that in most cases we already know. And for someone to say there are unknown sources out there, I'm just skeptical about. I don't buy into that. These guys asking fees to easily find water, I just don't know what they're trying to do."
Steven Vandiver, a district engineer in the Rio Grande Basin, agrees with his boss.
"We know where water is," he says. "That's not the issue. The issue is whether we can get to it without causing injury to other rights. In most aquifers, particularly down here, there are no new well permits granted for years and years. There are rules set up for more drilling. It's not a matter of not knowing where the water is; it's more of a legal matter."
"Dowsers are more into subsurface water," says Brad Lundahl, chairman of the Colorado Drought Task Force and head of the Office of Water Conservation. "We're hoping for rain and snow and stream flows. That's not to count them out, but I don't think we're at that point yet."
"Their 'expertise' is not relevant to what we do," says Chips Barry, manager of Denver Water.
"We don't rely on wells. We just don't use them."
But Ralph Curtis, general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, isn't so quick to write off dowsers in this current water crisis.
"A lot of people swear by them, and I've read a lot about them," he says. "If I was going to drill a well on a valley floor, I wouldn't recommend one, because we have these two aquifers, and just about every place we go, we get water. But if I was drilling in the mountains and the driller wasn't sure, I might try one. In those conditions, a water-witcher might help."
Tom Cech, executive director of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley, is also open to the possibility. But then, his father-in-law is a water witch in Nebraska. After handling a set of L-rods himself, Cech started reading about dowsing in Germany and elsewhere. Scientific evidence was inconclusive, but dowsing seemed to give people "a sense of hope during drought periods," he says. And that might be useful here.
"I'm still skeptical, but I wouldn't rule it out," Cech says. "It's like police using a psychic to solve a tough case. If you're willing to try anything, what does it hurt?"
Panorama Park, Wheat Ridge.
Storozuk stops on a bluff overlooking a soccer field.
"This is the nearest vein to where I was standing before," he says. "Right here."
His L-rods swing open, indicating yes, so Storozuk checks the direction of flow, the center of the vein and the depth. After several minutes, he offers his conclusion: "There's a freshwater vein 68 and a half feet belowground flowing north at about a gallon per minute."
Although he's standing near a sprinkler-valve cover, Storozuk dismisses that coincidence with a smirk.
"Locating sprinkler heads is not my specialty," he says. "How can you prove I'm right? Drill. Other than that, I can't explain it. It's a matter of experience. It's a matter of knowing. You just plain know."
Storozuk heads toward a picnic table. He sits in the shade, removes his hat, sheathes his rods and taps a cigarette from his pack.
"Skeptics will say luck, luck, luck," he says. "And you know what? I don't care what they say. It used to bother me, but I don't even let it anymore. They can follow me around and scream right at me. Hell, I'll even agree with them. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But what are you basing your opinion on? Have you tried it? Have you read anything? I've seen their tests. They don't mean a thing to me. If you're going to do a test, okay, let's do a test. Take a dowser and a geologist. Take them to a flat desert. Have the geologist pick five spots. Have the dowser pick five spots. Drill ten holes. See who wins."
Storozuk takes a long drag. There was a time when he did try to convince people, he says. He attended water-board meeting after water-board meeting, presented talks, prepared papers and offered suggestions. He even spoke at the Colorado Water Engineering and Management Conference in 1991 and the South Platte Basin Forum in 1994. He didn't say officials should accept dowsing outright; he didn't say he should be hired for the job. He simply suggested a pilot project to "augment modern search techniques for pure water sources" in hard-hit areas of Colorado. His suggestion was met with nothing but silence.
"They all listened," Storozuk recalls. "They all treated me with respect. But their training kept them from casting any faith in what I do. Here were all these people who went to college to learn geology and hydrology, and I can go out with a fork stick or a pair of L-rods and do the same thing? I didn't expect a response. I didn't have the letters after my name."
But after one speech, he says, a half-dozen geologists came up to him in the restroom and said, "I've tried that, and it works." When Storozuk asked why they hadn't spoken up in public, they told him: "Are you kidding? That would be professional suicide."
"There's a stigma attached to dowsers," Storozuk says. "You're always being laughed at. Even the people who hire you look at you as if you're a little on the weird side."
But that's okay. He prefers to work "in a very clandestine way," he says. He just wants to do his job, "let people enjoy the fruits of it" and move on. He's happy with his life. He has no credit cards, no debts and no financial commitments.
"I have everything I want," he says. "I have everything I need. I'm comfortable."
Deep down, though, Storozuk would like to work with government officials, especially in this time of drought. He admits he'd like to see officials drill on the sites he suggests. He'd love "not to have to fight anymore."
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"I really believe dowsers can help," he says. "We can find fresh water in places geologists and hydrologists would not normally look. Does it really matter where the water comes from or who finds it? Does it really matter if it comes from a lettered geologist or a dowser? We need water, period."
Storozuk sits back and listens to the sprinklers. If officials call him, that's fine. If they don't call, that's fine, too. He can only help people who want his help.
He'll continue to travel the state in his faded brown camper. He'll continue to do what dowsers have done for centuries.
He knows where the water is. No matter what anyone else says, he believes.