The Annualized Agricultural Non-point Source (AnnAGNPS) pollution model has been widely used to assess and predict runoff, soil erosion, sediment and nutrient loading with a geographic information system. This article presents a case study of the effect of land-use changes on nonpoint source (NPS) pollution using the AnnAGNPS model in the Xizhi River watershed, eastern Pearl River Delta of Guangdong province, China. The land-use changes in the Xizhi River watershed between 1998 and 2003 were examined using the multitemporal remote sensing data. The runoff, soil erosion, sediment transport and nutrient loading 1998 and 2003 were assessed using AnnAGNPS. The effects of land-use changes on NPS were studied by comparing the simulation results of each year. Our results showed that (i) the NPS loadings increased when forest and grass land converted into paddy, orchard and farmland land, and population size and gross domestic product size as well as the usage amounts of fertilizer and pesticide in the entire watershed were firmly correlated with the NPS loadings; (ii) the land-use change during fast urbanization in particular when other land types were converted into the development land and buildup land led to increasing of NPS pollution; and (iii) urban land expansion showed more important effects on total organic carbon (TOC) loading compared with nitrogen and phosphorus loadings. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.