There is more than enough freshwater on the surface of the globe to fulfil everybody’s needs, and advances over more than 150 years have given us the understanding we need to protect health with sanitation. And yet humanity has dismally failed to provide access to clean water and sanitation for far too many people. Many hundreds of millions lack access to good water, and well over a billion lack access to basic sanitation. The targets of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 address these challenges. Here we highlight contributions in our books, journals and magazines towards progress: in technological and systems approaches to water management, in studies of rural and urban contexts and of pathways of infectious diseases from ambient organisms, in the social understanding of ethnic disparities in access, and much more. We hope these resources provide insights and inspiration for those committed to these goals.