Worldwide, water scarcity threatens delivery of water to urban centers. Increasing water use efficiency (WUE) is often recommended to reduce water demand, especially in water-scarce areas. In this paper, agricultural water use efficiency (AWUE) is examined using the super-efficient data envelopment analysis (DEA) approach in Xi'an in Northwest China at a temporal and spatial level. The grey systems analysis technique was then adopted to identify the factors that influenced the efficiency differentials under the shortage of water resources. From the perspective of temporal scales, the AWUE increased year by year during 2004–2012, and the highest (2.05) was obtained in 2009. Additionally, the AWUE was the best in the urban area at the spatial scale. Moreover, the key influencing factors of the AWUE are the financial situations and agricultural water-saving technology. Finally, we identified several knowledge gaps and proposed water-saving strategies for increasing AWUE and reducing its water demand by: (1) improving irrigation practices (timing and amounts) based on compatible water-saving techniques; (2) maximizing regional WUE by managing water resources and allocation at regional scales as well as enhancing coordination among Chinese water governance institutes.

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