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By taking the sum of annual precipitation and lateral water input (in which irrigation water withdrawal is the main component) for water availability, the Budyko hypothesis and Fu's formula derived from it was extended to the study of oases in the Tarim Basin, Northwest China. For both long-term (multi-year) and annual values on water balances in the 26 oases subregions, the extended Fu's formula was confirmed. Regional patterns on water balance on the 26 oases subregions were related to change in land-use types due to increased area for irrigation. Moreover, an empirical formula for the parameter was established to reflect the influences of change in land use on water balance. The extended Budyko framework was employed to evaluate the impact of irrigation variability on annual water balance. According to the multi-year mean timescale, variabilities in actual evapotranspiration in the oases were mainly controlled by variability in irrigation water withdrawal rather than potential evapotranspiration. The influences of variability on potential evapotranspiration became increasingly apparent together with increases in irrigation water withdrawal. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.