Collaborating for our community’s water security

Of all the challenges facing Victoria over the next 50 years, water security is arguably one of the most vital to address. Chloe Wiesenfeld (OM 1999) is working to find the solutions we’ll need to ensure we have access to water well into the future.

“In Victoria, the pressures of a growing population and climate change means we’re looking at a drier future,” explains Chloe, who now works as a Senior Policy Officer for the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action. “Without action, we’ll be facing more frequent and severe water restrictions, along with serious consequences for the economy, environment and the way we live.”

The different ways water matters

Having worked as a hydrologist after graduating from the University of Melbourne, Chloe’s recent focus has been on working with experts, Traditional Owners, community members and government authorities to create a 50-year plan for Central and Gippsland Region’s water supply.

“So many different types of people are needed in water management, from engineers and technical people to artists who can communicate ideas to the public,” she explains. “It takes many people and organisations to develop a sustainable water strategy, and the strategy will have impacts on everyone in the community.”

She says one of the most exciting aspects of this work has been the opportunity to work alongside Victoria’s Traditional Owners in these conversations about balancing our water needs across different water users.

“It was really exciting to work in partnership with Traditional Owners and to find ways to recognise the spiritual, cultural and economic role water plays for First Nations peoples,” says Chloe. “It’s so important to have collaborations across the community so everyone has a voice.”

“Water has been a fantastic area to work in,” Chloe adds. “What we’re doing has tangible outcomes for everyone. I’m a values-driven person, so it’s great to be able to work in an area where I can contribute to something that matters.”

The value of an encouraging environment

Remembering her time as a student at Grimwade House, Chloe says she now appreciates the breadth of opportunities that were available to her, and the way they shaped her as a person.

“I was part of all the musicals, drama, and music classes, went on trips interstate with the choir and went on camp to Woodend and Falls Creek—I didn’t realise at the time how special all that was,” she says.

Like many Grimwade students, Chloe still keeps in touch with the friends she made during those early school years.

“I still spend time with the people I met at Grimwade, which is beautiful after all these years,” she says. “It was a very special place, encouraging empathy, collaboration, curiosity, and problem solving. All characteristics that have stood me in good stead in my career and in life.”