World Water Day 2020 is about water and climate change, and how the two are inextricably linked. Importantly, we cannot afford to wait. Everyone has a role to play.

There can be considerable complexity in understanding the water-related implications of climate change for a given scenario. Think beyond changes to the obvious aspects such as rainfall, humidity, sea levels and wind – consider ocean currents, glaciers and the worlds fresh water storage, groundwater drawdown linked to salinization and subsidence. Groundwater timeframes for recharge and discharge can be tens of thousands of years.

Technology can help. Predictive and scenario based modelling and modelling of uncertainty of the water cycle aided by today’s computing power can provide a level of understanding of the behaviour and performance of our natural and built water systems that was unheard of only a short time ago. This can include some deep insights into uncertainty and resilience around future climate change if we want it to, and organise ourselves in a way that embeds this in our approach. In Australia we have traditionally lead the world in water management in water scarce environments, and we need to continue to lead the world in this space, but also raise the bar in developing water management approaches and systems that can be taken to places in far more dire and climate-exposed circumstances than we are locally. Uncertainty is upon us all.

This isn’t necessarily hard.  Our conceptual understanding, ways of thinking, problem solving, and range of possible solutions today are just as unrivalled in history as the scale of the climate problem. What makes it hard is when we constrain ourselves to the solution space we’ve always hung out in – comfortable, familiar, safe…

Why should it be like this? We need to be creating opportunities for involving people, skills and resources that don’t replicate solutions, but respond to the problem. This can mean initially taking more time to step back, understand the first principles involved, read the data, and then form a view, and not be afraid to be proved wrong, but to welcome that as a learning moment for everyone. This takes courage and humility, to admit we don’t know the answer when we start but are committed to solutions that are sustainable and enduring. At EMM our purpose is to create these opportunities for our clients, our people and our community.