20:20 Visions - Resilience for our water resources

The City of Sydney launched its C40 Women4Climate Mentorship Program in May, with Mayor Clover Moore stating “Climate action is the City of Sydney’s top priority”, as reflected in the City’s 2030 Strategy and Climate Emergency declaration.

Ahead of the Global Climate Strike called for 20 September, the program’s 20 mentees are taking this opportunity to share the vision for each of their projects, and their view on climate activism. The outcomes of their projects will be presented at the global Women4Climate Conference in Sydney in April 2020.

Clare Stephens is a researcher at the UNSW Water Research Centre


Resilience for our water resources


My vision is for a robust, long-term approach to natural resource management. Large parts of Australia, including key agricultural areas, are becoming drier due to climate change. This means new challenges for keeping our communities secure and our agricultural sector strong. Overseas, the situation is even more complex, with many countries sharing transboundary rivers and aquifers. This could make water management a key issue for global security in coming decades. I’d like to see innovative scientific and policy breakthroughs that can support societies to adapt successfully, as well as meaningful action to reduce emissions and minimise impacts on the water cycle.


As a hydrologist and researcher at UNSW, I’m lucky to work on many projects aiming to improve understanding and simulation of water resources under climate change. However, most of my past work has had a strong technical and modelling focus. As part of the Women4Climate program, I’m starting a new study looking at international collaboration to improve global water resilience through ‘soft’ diplomacy. This could include professional exchange programs, where high level water managers from different countries visit each other's institutions to learn new approaches.

My project aims to better understand how knowledge sharing programs can most effectively enhance water management under climate change. This will involve collaboration between engineers, water experts and social scientists.  Together, we will aim to provide evidence-based information that can guide decision makers to maximise positive impact.


The large (and increasing) proportion of the global population living in cities means that they can be hubs for rapid change. Reducing emissions from cities should be a top priority. Cities are also home to many large corporations with economic and political influence. If we can make our voices heard in cities throughout the world, there’s no telling how quickly we might turn things around!

Those of us who live in urban areas should also be aware of the special risks we face due to climate change. Flooding is expected to become more severe in cities, and the urban heat island effect will compound the impacts of increasing heat waves. We have both the need and the means to drive real climate action.


I’ll be taking part in the strike next Saturday to demand that our leaders finally face reality and act on climate change. We need policy that supports meaningful emissions reduction now, with a just transition to renewable energy and a ban on new fossil fuel projects.

Being immersed in the science every day, I sometimes feel hopeless for the children in my life, and even for myself. This growing movement, started by children themselves who understand the truth better than many adults, has inspired me to stay positive. To keep fighting. We are more powerful than we think.


“If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”