Background: Intensification of agricultural systems may result in overexploitation of water resources in arid regions because enhanced productivity of crops is often associated with increased actual evapotranspiration (AET). The aim of this study was to quantify the effect of increased regional AET on the groundwater level in a case study of the oasis located within the Shiyang River Basin near the edge of the Gobi Desert.
Result: The results of the study show that regional AET increased during the period from 1981 to 2010 due to increasing oasis area and air temperature. The water losses due to AET exceeded the water supply from the mountainous discharges of the basin by the end of this period, leading to groundwater overexploitation in the oasis area.
Conclusions: This case study shows the importance of considering the effect of climate change on water losses associated with increasing agricultural production for the sustainable agricultural development of arid regions.