The effectiveness of different mulch types on fruit yield, leaf-nutrient composition, and normal plant growth parameters was investigated in order to maximize water use efficiency (WUE) in cucumber grown under water stress. Treatments were (1) bare soil + water stress (WS), (2) bare soil + unstressed (control, C), (3) black polyethylene mulch + water stress (BPM + WS), (4) wheat straw mulch + water stress (WSM + WS), and (5) wheat straw mulch plus black polyethylene mulch + water stress (WSM + BPM + WS). Seasonal crop evapotranspiration was between 492 and 960 mm. Seasonal irrigation water amounts were 965 and 485 mm for the C and WS treatments, respectively. The WUE ranged from 3.40 to 5.78 kg m(-3), while irrigation water-use efficiency (IWUE) was between 3.39 and 6.08 kg m(-3). IWUE and WUE were increased under WS treatments with mulching compared with the control treatment, as mulching significantly reduced the amount of irrigation water required. Both BPM and WSM improved the fruit yield, fruit size, plant dry matter, total leaf area, and chlorophyll and nutrient concentrations in leaves under the stressed treatments, while these two mulches in combination (BPM + WSM) caused further increases in these parameters. This study confirms that limiting soil evaporation with mulches is a key action to take to save irrigation water and to improve WUE and IWUE. Because use of drip irrigation with mulching can increase WUE, this strategy might be used for vegetable production in semi-arid regions where irrigation water is limited.