HOMEOWNERS fed up with rising water bills are turning to France’s network of water diviners to help them tap directly into the water table.
One Connexion reader in the Vendée told us he has been using water from a 10-metre deep borehole since 2010, after neighbours recommended a local water diviner, or sourcier. Sceptical at first, he said the unorthodox methods have proved a success.
He said: “My wife is a keen gardener and grows a lot of vegetables. The plants and shrubs and fruit trees need plenty of water at regular intervals. One of my neighbours said to me: why don’t you get a forage and you can water your lawns and veg for nothing. I was totally sceptical until I discovered that nearly everyone in the hamlet had used his services.”
He says watching the diviner in action with a stick and a cable from a bicycle brake system, was “amazing”.
“He can tell you immediately whether there is water underground on your land, give you an estimate of the cubic capacity available to extract per hour, and approximately how deep it lies under the surface.
“It is quite extraordinary to watch him work. I was completely converted - there is no doubt that it is a gift.”
The reader said water was found, about 10m below the ground – enough to fill up “a water butt holding 1,600 litres in 18 minutes”.
The cost of drilling depends on the depth at which the water lies (if there is any there at all) and the sourcier’s fee for testing starts at €100.
While some homeowners use their borehole just for gardening or washing cars, the reader said he has gone further and connected the whole house supply to it.
Because the home has a septic tank, he no longer pays a water firm, as both the supply and the waste treatment are now independent.
He estimates the saving at between €300 and €400 a year, although it will take several years to recoup the €1,200 cost of drilling and installing a pump and other plumbing work.
On the issue of water quality, he says: “It’s got to go through 30ft of limestone before it enters into the water table and that’s the best natural filter you can think of. We are very happy with the quality. In addition it comes with the benefit of the best word in French – gratuit.
“If you look at the need for water, it is going rapidly up. I believe the price of water will continue to rise. Some think that it could easily become as expensive as oil in time.”
Philippe Wojtowicz, a water diviner in the Vosges who has made more than 300 callouts (see box, below), says on his website: “There is no scientific device that can detect sources of underground water and determine with precision how large they are, how fast they flow and in what direction. I travel all over France and it’s clear that water is getting deeper.” His deepest find recently was 162m, in the Pas-de-Calais, he says.
Since January 2009, the Ecology Ministry has attempted to build up a better idea of how widespread the borehole practice is. Every homeowner with one on their land is required to declare it to their mairie, and anyone thinking of digging a new one must do the same at least a month before work begins. Holes deeper than 10m also require authorisation from the local préfecture.
Poorly-built boreholes can serve as an entry point for pollutants to enter the water table, the government says. There are also risks if the supply from the borehole is mixed up with the mains due to a plumbing error.
On-the-spot checks can be carried out by the departmental safety body DDASS or a water company if it suspects the hole is causing pollution. They can close off access if there is persistent non-compliance with the rules.
If the supply is being used for drinking water, you must have it analysed by a laboratory accredited by the Health Ministry. This test, called an analyse P1, should be repeated each year. A water counter is meant to be installed. Boreholes are banned within 5m of a road, 40m of a cemetery or near septic tanks.
To find out more, see: www.tinyurl.com/BoreholeRules