Payments for ecosystem services (PES) have been created worldwide to assist watershed management and improve or maintain water quality. Considering their importance, we conducted a holistic review of payment for water-related ecosystem services to understand how this instrument has been applied in watershed management worldwide. First, we identified the watershed management actions considered by the PES programs and the challenges of implementing water-related PES. After we identified the methods and criteria used to define priority areas for water-related PES. Our review considered articles published on the Web of Science from 2011 to 2022. We found 236 articles relating PES to water resources, highlighting the main water conservation strategies: native vegetation conservation, native vegetation restoration, and implementing best agricultural practices. The method most frequent was interview, followed by the use of technologies, document analysis, and hydrological models. Another significant result was that priority areas for receiving PES are mainly riparian zones, areas near or with native vegetation cover, areas with higher erosion potential, steep areas, and areas with socially vulnerable communities. This review was crucial to identify efficient water resource conservation strategies and potential challenges in the implementation and development of PES programs.