An efficient management of our precious water resources is not possible without acquiring a comprehensive and detailed understanding on water fluxes at irrigated areas. In the past few decades, agricultural water balance analyses have been carried out at a wide variety of temporal (from hourly to annual) and spatial (from plant root zone to basin) scales. Scheme-wide water balance analyses, in particular, provide information on the amount of water supplied to irrigation schemes and its fate. This paper attempts to summarise the results of previous studies in quantifying water balance components of irrigation schemes, as well as to present challenges and opportunities of conducting such research projects. With recent improvements in air- and space-borne imaging of land surfaces, remote sensing techniques nowadays can serve as a powerful tool in monitoring/modeling water movements, at or near real time. Remote sensing contribution to water balance studies could be as simple as developing crop classification maps, or as complicated as estimating the spatially distributed evapotranspiration, which is perhaps the most critical water flux in irrigated areas. Therefore, this paper also aims to review the few studies that have incorporated satellite-derived products in their water budget analysis. Finally, the results of a case study from the southern California are presented to better demonstrate the potential of remotely sensed data. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.