This paper explores the role played by water infrastructure in urban livelihoods. It is based on a study of three settlements in Cusco, Peru, and shows that different modes of organising infrastructure co-exist within the same city, despite national policy prescriptions for urban water provision. Further, unequal access of households to these services exists within the same settlements and amplifies household vulnerability which, in turn, feeds back to undermine local, autonomous governance of water. This paper draws on the work of van Vliet et al. and Marvin and Graham to develop a framework that considers infrastructure organisation alongside household livelihoods in order to analyse the features of governance and vulnerability that affect urban livelihoods by privileging some groups and bypassing others.