The Perils of Water: Floods, Droughts, and Pollution as Natural Hazards and Cultural Challenges


The paper addresses various ways that water is constructed as “dangerous,” whether because there is too much (floods), too little (droughts), or because it is polluted. Mauch emphasizes that although water catastrophes have a natural origin, their effects are primarily social. It is the vulnerability of human communities that decides the magnitude of a water disaster. The consequences stand in a reciprocal relationship to a community’s technical and social resilience, which is distributed highly unequally. In general, it is the socially disadvantaged who lack the resources necessary to avoid this danger through preventive measures of their own or by means of social safety nets.