in: Water International 41 (1), 140-156
This article explores how payment for environmental services (PES) approaches envision, design and actively constitute new hydro-social territories by reconfiguring local water control arenas. PES aims to conserve watershed ecosystems by repatterning and commoditizing the link between ‘water service providers’ upstream and ‘water consuming’ populations downstream. Two case illustrations from the Ecuadorian highlands are used to clarify how PES implementation – though presented as if it were apolitical and neutral – weakens locally crafted hydrosocial territories in favour of dominant interests. If consolidated, this depoliticized PES implementation fosters the consolidation of new (market-environmentalist) territories, subjects and interactions, further marginalizing the less powerful upstream communities’ livelihood strategies.