River Culture: Living with the River, Loving the River, Taking Care of the River






An unbelievably small portion of the water available on planet Earth, just 0.00015 per cent of it, runs in rivers (Garcia-Moreno et al. 2014). And yet, this is the most important water source, not only for humans, but also for animals, plants and entire ecosystems on all continents. The natural flow regime of rivers, including periods of floods and low flows, has set the pace for cultural activities and biological evolution since the earliest days. But, in assuming that water is a resource that can be exploited without limits, humanity and global life support systems are running into an existential crisis, recently worsened by climate change. This article presents the book publication River Culture – Life as a Dance to the Rhythm of the Waters, which bears the name of a scientific concept that offers a way out of this crisis. Its innovative approach combines adaptive strategies developed by non-human biota with cultural practices resulting from human-nature interactions. The goal is to develop sustainable management options for river catchments (Wantzen 2022, 2023).

How to Cite

Wantzen, K. M. (2023). River Culture: Living with the River, Loving the River, Taking Care of the River. Blue Papers, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.58981/bluepapers.2023.1.06





challenges, concepts and new approaches


Boelens, Rutgerd, Arturo Escobar, Karen Bakker, Lena Hommes, Erik Swyngedouw, Barbara Hogenboom et al. 2022 “Riverhood: Political Ecologies of Socio- Nature Commoning and Translocal Struggles for Water Justice.” Journal of Peasant Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2022.2120810.

Cao, Yixin, and Alvin M. Vazhayil. 2023. “River Culture in China and India, a Comparative Perspective on its Origins, Challenges, and Applications.” In River Cultures – Life as a Dance to the Rhythm of the Waters, edited by Karl M. Wantzen, 281–312. Paris: UNESCO Publishing.

Garcia-Moreno, Jaime, Ian J. Harrison, David Dudgeon, Viola Clausnitzer, William Darwall, Tracy Farrell, Conrad Savy et al. 2014. “Sustaining Freshwater Biodiversity in the Anthropocene.” In The Global Water System in the Anthropocene, edited by Anik Bhaduri, Janos Bogardi, Jan Leentvaar and Sina Marx, 247–70. Cham: Springer.

Vörösmarty, Charles J., Vanesa Rodríguez Osuna, Anthony D. Cak, Anik Bhaduri, Stuart E. Bunn, Fabio Corsi, Jorge Gastelumendi et al. 2018. “Ecosystem-based Water Security and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” Ecohydrology & Hydrobiology 18, no. 4: 317–33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecohyd.2018.07.004.

Wantzen, Karl M., ed. 2023. River Culture – Life as a Dance to the Rhythm of the Waters. Paris: UNESCO publishing. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/ pf0000382775.

Wantzen, Karl M. 2022. “River Culture: Socioecology of the Rhythm of the Waters.” Geographical Journal 00: 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1111/geoj.12476.

Wantzen, Karl M., Carlos B. Alves, Sidia D. Badiane, Raita M. Bala, Martin Blettler, Marcos Callisto, Yixin Cao et. al. 2019. “Urban Stream and Wetland Restoration in the Global South – A DPSIR analysis.” Sustainability 11, no. 18: 4975. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11184975.

Wantzen, Karl M., Téa Piednoir, Yixin Cao, Alvin M. Vazhayil, Chaozhong Tan, Franz G. Kari, Mirja Lagerström et al. 2022. “Back to the Surface – Daylighting Urban Streams in Europe and Asia.” Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10: 838794. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2022.838794.

Yousry, Lina, Yixin Cao, Bruno Marmiroli, Olivier Guerri, Guillaume Delaunay, Olivier Riquet and Karl M. Wantzen. 2022. “A Socio-Ecological Approach to Conserve and Manage Riverscapes in Designated Areas: Cases of the Loire River Valley and Dordogne Basin, France.” Sustainability 14, no. 24: 16677. https:// doi.org/10.3390/su142416677.

Zingraff-Hamed, Aude, Mathieu Bonnefond, Sebastien Bonthoux, Nicolas Legay, Sabine Greulich, Amélie Robert, Vincent Rotgé et al. 2021. “Human-River Encounter Sites: Looking for Harmony Between Humans and Nature in Cities.” Sustainability 13, no. 5: 2864. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052864.