Questions related to water such as its availability, water needs or stress, or management, are mapped at various resolutions at the global scale. They are reported at many scales, mostly along political or continental boundaries. As such, they ignore the fundamental heterogeneity of the hydroclimate and the natural boundaries of the river basins. Here, we describe the continental landmasses according to eight global-scale hydrobelts strictly limited by river basins, defined at a 30′ (0.5°) resolution. The belts were defined and delineated, based primarily on the annual average temperature (T) and runoff (q), to maximise interbelt differences and minimise intrabelt variability. The belts were further divided into 29 hydroregions based on continental limits. This new global puzzle defines homogeneous and near-contiguous entities with similar hydrological and thermal regimes, glacial and postglacial basin histories, endorheism distribution and sensitivity to climate variations. The Mid-Latitude, Dry and Subtropical belts have northern and southern analogues and a general symmetry can be observed for T and q between them. The Boreal and Equatorial belts are unique. The hydroregions (median size 4.7 Mkm2) contrast strongly, with the average q ranging between 6 and 1393 mm yr−1 and the average T between −9.7 and +26.3 °C. Unlike the hydroclimate, the population density between the North and South belts and between the continents varies greatly, resulting in pronounced differences between the belts with analogues in both hemispheres. The population density ranges from 0.7 to 0.8 p km−2 for the North American Boreal and some Australian hydroregions to 280 p km−2 for the Asian part of the Northern Mid-Latitude belt. The combination of population densities and hydroclimate features results in very specific expressions of water-related characteristics in each of the 29 hydroregions. Our initial tests suggest that hydrobelt and hydroregion divisions are often more appropriate for water-relative global analysis and reporting than conventional continental or political divisions.