You remember the decision by Judge Duval in federal court in Louisiana last year, the one where he said flood exclusion language was ambiguous in a number of insurers’ policies? You may recall that the judge felt the language was ambiguous because "flood" normally refers to a pure act of nature, rather than a process involving man, such as the overtopping of man-made levees in New Orleans.
In my opinion, this reasoning is reductionist and oversimplistic — I mean no offense to Judge Duval, I’m just arguing a philosophical point. Why do I say this? Two reasons. First, because all flooding that would concern an insurance policy involves man — after all, who is being flooded? Correct, people are being flooded. If the people were not there, no claim would exist. Second, the fact that the people are there means that almost in every case of flooding some kind of human intervention in the environment has facilitated the conditions that result in flooding. Sometimes it is basic: people who live near the Gulf Coast or along a river bank stand a greater chance of being flooded. Sometimes it is somewhat more complicated: river channels and even coastlines are altered by the conscious designs or engineering feats of man, or sometimes unwittingly by the actions of people (for example, flood control on the Mississippi/Missouri has resulted in less silt being deposited in the Gulf of Mexico and erosion of the Mississippi River Delta). I don’t think it is a productive exercise to try to draw a distinction between "man-made" and "natural" flooding. Plus, the way policies are almost always interpreted, if for some reason a water tower tipped over and flooded your basement, that is every bit as much a flood as a so-called natural flood.