I sometimes wonder if there is a confusion over the use of listening sticks
, a widely used simple device to help you hear the rushing sound of water escaping from a crack in a pipe. It works like the old-fashion glass beaker against a wall or door to hear what people are saying in the next room, which does work very well if you try it. Though sound gets transferred and you can't reliably say, it seems loudest here, this is where to dig. Leak location is difficult. Even when it is spurting out of a crack in the paving, the actual leak may be surprisingly far away.
In the road I live in, well beyond the houses, they once dug a series of about 30 holes at about 5m intervals to try and find a gas leak. I could smell the gas in still conditions, when cycling down the road, and reported it. You can imagine someone using dowsing as an alternate form of coin-tossing to decide where to dig first.
The Catholic church did explicitly ban dowsing in mediaeval times on grounds of occultism. When protestant churches came into existence, they also applied that ban. So it could get you into trouble over dowsing for an extended period of time, not just during the witch hunt hysteria/purge.
Dowsing was often to find metal ores, and other things, rather than just water as we tend to associate it today. Ironically, at one point it was used for a time in France to detect witches and other guilty miscreants, and that had to get banned too.