Historical and Recent High-Water Management
Conflicts in Connection with Rhine, Elbe and Danube and the Tensions between Science, Technology and Social Ecology

The project analyses and compares historical, recent and anticipated confl icts and potential conflicts connected with high water and flooding. With reference to the rivers Rhine, Elbe and Danube, it takes a cross-disciplinary approach to developing a set of methodological instruments for the analysis of global water problems and the proposal of solutions to those problems. Increasingly, high water and flooding have come to be perceived not only as a physical and material threat but also as the outcome of societal processes. As such, the course taken by these events and the influence that can be exerted on them are never entirely predictable or controllable. Accordingly, a strategy for dealing with the hazards of flooding will no longer concentrate exclusively on abating its effects and minimising the damage it causes. Responding to floods and preventing them from happening in the first place calls for approaches that take full account of the complex interrelations between nature, technology and society. The factors constituting the physical context and determining society’s response to (incipient) flooding are closely interconnected with regard to

  • spatial and temporal integration of natural processes, architectural measures and protection/utilisation claims,
  • risk awareness and interpretations of security and danger,
  • coping and prevention as a long-term learning and negotiation process,
  • normative regulation,
  • planning, construction and operation.

January 1932: The Elbe overflows its banks near Dresden
(Federal Archives, picture 102-12896, anonymous undated photo).​

Conflicts of interest are frequent between the groups involved and/or people living in the vicinity. Controversial issues can be economic, ecological or social. Comparative historical analysis is an indispensable component in future conflict management. The methods employed in the modelling of environmental systems can also contribute much to the avoidance, settlement or mediation of conflicts. The theoretical approach involves investigation of the extent to which a socio-ecological concept of space can be applied (a) to the issue in question and (b) (if the outcome is positive) to water-based conflicts in general.

The research project is scheduled to take three years and is funded by the Klaus Tschira Foundation.


Chair of the Commission

Prof. Dr.-Ing. E.h., Ph.D. Hermann H. Hahn

Heads of the Research Unit

Prof. Dr. Dr. Franz-Josef Brüggemeier
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rainer Helmig


Thomas Haas
Katharina Stork


University of Stuttgart
Institute for Modelling Hydraulic and Environmental Systems
Department of Hydromechanics and Modelling Hydrosystems
Pfaffenwaldring 61
D-70569 Stuttgart

phone: +49 711 | 6 85-6 46 67 or 6 85-6 45 11
e-mail: thomas.haas@adw.uni-heidelberg.de

responsible: editorial office
Latest Revision: 2017-02-23