NEW YORK - In 1977, world leaders, water experts and policymakers from around the world gathered in Mar del Plata, Argentina, for the UN Water Conference. Almost 50 years later, the global community will come together from 22 to 24 March in New York for the second ever UN 2023 Water Conference.

By nature, water connects different environments, peoples and sectors. But growing demands for water, coupled with poor water management, have increased water stress around the world. Meanwhile, the effects of worsening climate change are often felt through water, in the form of floods or droughts. Something has to change.

Halfway into the Water Action Decade, our progress on water-related goals and targets remains alarmingly off-track, jeopardizing the entire sustainable development agenda.

The UN 2023 Water Conference will put water into the spotlight and onto global agendas. It seeks to mobilize States, the UN system and stakeholders alike to share and exchange knowledge, challenges and best practices, and forge new partnerships across sectors. Governance, innovation, data and financing all have a role to play in accelerating water action.

The Conference aims to help everyone better understand, value and manage water and take concerted action to achieve the internationally agreed water-related goals and targets. Water can be the dealmaker for the Sustainable Development Goals, and in turn for the health and prosperity of people and planet. Water action can increase food security and equality between genders, water action keeps children in school, communities at peace and nature healthy.

While briefing the General Assembly on his priorities for the year, Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the need for water action and that we must “act decisively before it is too late”.

The time is now. The UN 2023 Water Conference is the once-in-a-generation opportunity to act for water.

5 things you should know about water and the UN 2023 Water Conference

Water is life. It connects us and is vital to our existence on this planet. To protect this critical resource, and accelerate actions to solve the water crisis, the world will come together for the UN 2023 Water Conference on 22-24 March. Here are 5 things you should know about water and the upcoming conference.

1. Water for health

Drinking water and sanitation are human rights. However, in 2020, 2 billion people did not use safely managed drinking water, and 3.6 billion people used sanitation services that leave human waste untreated, threatening human and environmental health. Globally, at least a quadruple rate of progress on water, sanitation and hygiene is needed to meet the SDG targets.

2. Water for sustainable development

Approximately 35% of treated water is currently lost in urban water systems. Water utilities bear the huge financial costs of treating and pumping water but lose revenues from leaked water that could have been sold. Policy, institutional, and regulatory reforms are needed for sustainable and equitable water use, valuing water properly, and improved service delivery.

3. Water for climate, resilience and environment

Nearly 95% of infrastructure loss and damage reported between 2010 to 2019 were due to water-related disasters. At least 1.4 billion people have been affected by droughts and 1.6 billion by floods for the same period. Sustainable use of water resources is fundamental to deal with the climate and environmental emergency and build resilience.

4. Water for cooperation

Transboundary rivers, lakes and aquifers are shared by 153 countries. But only a small proportion of (32) countries reported high (90% or more) coverage of their transboundary waters by operational arrangements in 2020. Joining the UN Water Conventions is a practical step to bolster political support for transboundary water cooperation.

5. Water Action Decade

As an outcome of the UN 2023 Water Conference, the Water Action Agenda will serve as a catalyst for actions and commitments by all countries and stakeholders. The Water Action Decade can facilitate efforts towards the achievement of the commitments, through its various workstreams on knowledge exchange, advocacy and communications.