Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ground-Water Awareness Week begins today

I'd like you to give some thought to an under-appreciated resource in celebration of Ground-Water Awareness Week. People with wells having low or marginal yields supplying their daily needs are keenly aware of ground water, but many others seem to have adopted the "out of sight, out of mind" point of view. After all, surface-water reservoirs are easy to see, and often serve multiple purposes including fishing, boating, and flood control.

Not only is ground water often ignored, but many people who do give it some thought commonly misunderstand it. The Dover, Pennsylvania, school board and Intelligent Design Creationism affair received a lot of coverage in the local papers. The papers tended to do a pretty good job presenting the issues. Unfortunately, several times they have missed opportunities to educate their readers in certain other matters, including occurrence and movement of ground-water.

One of the local papers did a story on dowsing, apparently impressed with this supernatural method of ground-water location. I did not agree that we needed a "Shucks, ain't we a quaint bunch of hillbillies" story in the paper, and sent a letter to the editor to say so. My letter also queried whether the "reporter" (one Robert Reilly) checked if the dowser in the story was a licensed professional geologist, a requirement for engaging in the practice of geology, which includes exploration for ground water.

The gentleman in the lower photo has also engaged in exploration for ground water. Like the Intelligent Design proponents, he has argued that his method is "scientific"--not by publishing results of a study in a peer-reviewed journal, but by writing a letter to the editor that contained as much geologic misinformation as any Creationist argument, ending with the assertion "Thank God for a rotating earth. As long as tides ebb and flow, there should be no depletion of underground, potable water supply." Well, at least his theory is amenable to testing, even if it is a load of cobblers.

See also Professor Pupdog's take on dowsing from a few years back. Since Pupdog mentioned the classic movie, I've placed a shot of Dave (Michael Landon), the albino in God's Little Acre, at the top of this post. As Pluto (Buddy Hackett) explained, it's not magic, it's science; albinos can see right through the Earth, "like looking through a glass of water." His explanation is just as convincing as the many explanations given by dowsing believers.

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Anonymous Karst said...

"checked if the dowser in the story was a licensed professional geologist, a requirement for engaging in the practice of geology, which includes exploration for ground water."

You are overstating your case; for example, one can be geologist teaching at a university, perform geologic research, and never become a licensed professional geologist.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Karst--Quite true. However, in Pennsylvania, Act 367 of 1992 requires those engaged in the practice of geology in the state to be licensed. "Practice of Geology" is defined as "the practice or the offer to practice geology for others for a fee..." In other words, what is generally considered consulting geology requires licensing in Pennsylvania; teaching and most research would not. Exploration for ground water, for a fee, comes under the Act's definition of the practice of geology.

10:33 PM  

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