With increasing water consumption and pollution in cities and expanding urban areas, impacts on rural areas as water extraction and waste disposal zones are intensifying. To unravel these hydro-territorial dynamics, this paper studies the intersecting and overlapping Foucauldian ‘arts of government’ (‘governmentalities’) deployed to convey water from rural to urban areas in three Latin American cities: Lima (Peru), San Luis Potosí (Mexico) and Bucaramanga (Colombia). We examine conventional (cemented) water transfers, broadly promoted payment for ecosystem services schemes and their conjunction, combining scholarship about hydrosocial territories and governmentality. We demonstrate how particular urban-based imaginaries about rural areas, their inhabitants, norms, practices and identities become embedded in governmentality schemes, and how these are justified, materialized and sustained, producing particular entwined rural–urban subjectivities. We explore how these are accepted, negotiated or contested. Our application of the governmentalities framework to analyze the material and socio-political effects of rural–urban water transfers contributes to existing scholarship on the (re)shaping of rural–urban hydrosocial territorialities showing the ‘hidden’ and ‘invisible’ workings of subjectification. It also contributes to the literature on governmentalities by scrutinizing the importance of technology (including physical infrastructure) in creating rural subjects.