Water abstraction for irrigation upstream of a reservoir and its impact on reservoir yield and reliability are studied. Water demand and availability are strongly related in semi-arid environments where the irrigation sector is responsible for a large part of consumptive water use. Variations in water abstractions for irrigation depend on irrigation requirements per hectare and the size of the irrigated area. The Orós Reservoir in semi-arid Northeast Brazil has been taken as a case study. The results show that water abstracttion for irrigation is of significant importance for reservoir yield and reliability. Yield–reliability simulations for the study area show that taking into account upstream water abstraction for a reservoir yield of 20.0 m3/s results in a water-scarcity probability of 10% on an annual basis (90% reliability). This is only 5% if up-stream abstraction for irrigation is ignored. This study shows that observed land-use changes in the study area do have a significant impact on reservoir yield reliability. The variability of upstream water abstraction was found to be of low importance for reservoir yield and reliability.