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  • For millennia, permafrost landscapes have gradually grown the foundation for a capillary hydrologic system. It is now being activated by unusual warmth.

    • Anna K. Liljedahl
    • Chandi Witharana
    • Elias Manos
  • Mountain communities are at risk of various climate change-related disasters, including glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). Effective GLOF risk identification and management require a holistic consideration of the diverse controls and drivers of GLOFs. This Comment outlines primary challenges related to rapidly changing mountains and complex system response.

    • Adam Emmer
  • Science funding could contribute more towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Science–practitioner partnerships illustrate how a patient and outcome-based approach could improve water security for millions of vulnerable people.

    • Rob Hope
    • Katrina Jane Charles
    • Anna Nileshwar
  • Water commons are water resources collectively managed and utilized by communities as common property to support their food security, traditions, and livelihoods. Water commons are under increasing pressure of acquisition, privatization, and grabbing. This Comment analytically defines the water commons, examines their vulnerability to grabbing, and discusses the associated water justice and environmental implications.

    • Paolo D’Odorico
    • Jampel Dell’Angelo
    • Maria Cristina Rulli
  • Research on the ecological impacts of drought has predominantly focused on the scarcity of water supply, often overlooking divergent ecosystem water demands across vegetation types, regions, and time. These diverse ecosystem water demands need to be incorporated into an effective ecological drought monitoring and assessment framework.

    • Jiangpeng Cui
    • Anping Chen
    • Shilong Piao
  • Rivers carry large quantities of carbon and form an important link between terrestrial, marine and atmospheric biogeochemical cycles, yet our observations of river carbon are severely limited. Here we provide a blueprint to build a global River Observation System that would improve our ability to observe and predict changes in this crucial piece of the global carbon cycle.

    • Joshua F. Dean
    • Tom J. Battin
  • Earth system model projections of vegetation–climate feedback frequently depend on inaccurate values of evaporation sensitivity to vegetation changes, potentially resulting in misleading conclusions. A promising avenue involves improving the transpiration partitioning parameterizations and incorporating groundwater connections to refine the modelled sensitivity.

    • Dashan Wang
    • Zhenzhong Zeng
  • With rapidly increasing urbanization, a substantial portion of global freshwater is used for the manufacture of construction materials, such as steel and cement. This threatens to intensify competition over the allocation of blue water (from lakes, rivers and aquifers). However, much less attention has been paid to the virtual water content of materials, and the water–materials nexus.

    • Asaf Tzachor
    • Heming Wang
    • Catherine E. Richards
  • Desalination is one of the most important responses to global water challenges. Decision-making on where, how and why to develop desalination plants must focus more on addressing social issues, such as universal access, justice and sustainability.

    • Brian Francis O’Neill
    • Joe Williams
  • Large-scale afforestation is championed as a way to restore degraded habitats, conserve biodiversity and advance societal improvements. In the Middle East, a severely water-stressed region, we argue that urban greening will need to play a major part in efforts to deliver a more sustainable and water-sensitive strategy, while also enhancing urban liveability.

    • Pei-Ying Hong
    • Himanshu Mishra
    • Matthew F. McCabe
  • Droughts and heatwaves amplify water scarcity by decreasing water availability, worsening water quality and increasing sectoral water use. These three driving mechanisms interact strongly, but insights into this complex interplay, particularly between water quality and sectoral water use, are urgently needed to unravel the drivers of water scarcity and to identify robust solutions for sustainable water management.

    • Michelle T. H. van Vliet
  • Wastewater surveillance enables tracking infectious disease dynamics and community prevalence quantification for public health. However, the testing requirement of centralized laboratories and well-trained staff challenges underserved areas and low-resource settings. The development of new rapid and low-cost sensors enables in-field testing of wastewater from the community to the individual building levels for early warning of pandemics.

    • Zhugen Yang
  • Due to technological, economic and environmental constraints, contemporary treatment plants cannot treat all wastewater. In particular, the very high amount of agricultural and urban runoff to be treated is increasingly concerning, especially with more erratic — and unpredictable — rainfall events. Passive ecosystem services can be combined with engineered processes to create hybrid, locally adapted, inexpensive and sustainable technologies to more feasibly treat runoff and wastewater globally.

    • Mathieu Lapointe
    • Chelsea M. Rochman
  • Transforming how we understand, value and manage water towards water security and resilience will accelerate progress in achieving the 2030 Agenda. On 22–24 March 2023, a unique United Nations (UN) Conference on water will be held, uniting the world for water. We reflect on this once-in-generation opportunity, and how it can spillover a just and sustainable transformation across all sectors and governance levels.

    • Henk Ovink
    • Sulton Rahimzoda
    • Angelo Jonas Imperiale
  • As climate-induced shocks and stresses increasingly occupy media attention, funding, national and global policy, and technical practice are shifting towards alignment with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC’s) Paris Agreement and away from the more narrowly sectoral Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Water resilience is emerging as a critical delivery mechanism for the Paris Agreement as the importance of adaptation and resilience accelerates. The SDGs, in contrast, have been unable to make use of either water resources or climate resilience as enabling tools for cross-sectoral integration and development coherence.

    • John H. Matthews
  • The United Nation 2023 Water Conference offers a critical opportunity to catalyse actions and innovations that bring increased water security to vulnerable communities across the globe. Researchers have an important role in supporting the delivery of needed on-the-ground impact, but their work must be informed by the priorities and necessities of Global South implementors.

    • D. Mark Smith
    • Christopher Gordon
    • Rachael McDonnell
  • Climate change and other human activities are modifying river water temperature globally. A more holistic understanding of river temperature dynamics in an integrated climate–land–hydrology–human framework is urgently needed for sustainable river management and adaptation strategies.

    • Darren L. Ficklin
    • David M. Hannah
    • Matt B. Charlton