Field studies were done in 2003 and 2006 to evaluate the performance of water pillow (WP) irrigation as an alternative to furrow irrigation (FI) for soybean growth in semi-arid climatic conditions. There were four irrigation treatments: two of which (FI and WP(1.0)) were full irrigation, in that the water deficit in the soil profile (0.9 m) was brought to field capacity in 10-day intervals. The other two treatments (WP(0.75) and WP(0.50)) were deficit irrigation treatments, and received 75% and 50% of WP(1.0) irrigation amount. The highest seed yield was achieved with the WP(1.0) treatment. Irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE) and water use efficiency (WUE) were influenced significantly by the irrigation methods and levels (P <= 0.05). The highest values of WUE and IWUE were obtained by the WP(0.75) and WP(0.50) treatment, respectively, in both study years. However, the smallest irrigation amount resulted in lower total yield for the WP(0.50) treatment, and is not recommended. in conclusion, the WP(0.75) treatment is recommended for soybean production in order to attain higher values of IWUE and WUE, and to conserve water and maximize yield with the same volume of water. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.