In March, 2023, the first UN Global Conference on water in 46 years attracted 7000 people in New York (NY, USA). Held at the midpoint between the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the UN Water Action Decade, the event cast a spotlight on crucial water-related challenges. These challenges include 2 billion people without access to safe water and more than 3·6 billion without access to safe sanitation; increased pressure on water resources and ecosystems, including 80% of wastewater released untreated into the environment; and an exacerbated risk of droughts and floods. However, long-standing rifts over how to best manage access to water and govern water resources were revived, revealing a confrontation of different political and economic views.

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