The spatial distribution of water resources largely influences Earth ecosystems and human civilization. Being a major component of the global water cycle, evapotranspiration (ET) serves as an indicator of the availability of water resources. Understanding the actual ET (ETa) variation mechanism at different spatial and temporal scales can improve management of water use within the sustainable development limits. In this study, remote sensing derived ETa data were used to study water resource fluctuations in the Loess Plateau, China. This region covers diverse climate types from humid to arid and experienced large changes in vegetation cover during a revegetation project between 2000 and 2015. The relations between spatiotemporal variation of ETa, climate factors and vegetation change were explored using statistical methods. The results show that cropland, forestland and grassland take the largest percentage of total ETa. Total ETa exhibited a marginally increasing trend (p < 0.1) during 2000–2010 and no trend during 2011–2015. Windspeed and vegetation cover index highly influenced ETa, followed by atmospheric pressure, air humidity, precipitation, bright sunshine duration and temperature. Temperature has little effect on ETa throughout the Loess Plateau. The monitoring of water resources based upon water balance between precipitation, ETa and river flow changes shows that water consumption deficit is consistent with vegetation changes: it was large during 2000–2010 when vegetation increased rapidly and decreased after 2010. These results could help to develop different water saving strategies across the Loess Plateau and build a better monitoring system of water resources.