This study was carried out to evaluate the use of the crop water stress index (CWSI) for irrigation scheduling of sugar beet for two years under the semi arid climate of Iran. Statistical relationships between CWSI and yield, quality parameters and irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE) were investigated. Irrigations were scheduled based on 100 (I100), 85 (I85), 70 (I50) and 0% (I0) of plant water requirement. CWSI values were calculated from the measurements of canopy temperatures by infrared thermometer, air temperatures and vapor pressure deficit values for all the irrigated treatments. The highest IWUE was found in I70 with 9.16 and 1.66 kg m−3 for the root and sugar yield, respectively, in 2013. A non-water stressed baseline (lower line) equation for sugar beet was measured from full irrigated plots as (Tc − Ta)ll = −0.832VPD + 2.1811; R2 = 0.6508. There was a high determination coefficient between CWSI with the root and sugar yield and IWUE. The CWSI could be used to determine the irrigation time of sugar beet, and 0.3 could be offered as a threshold value. Results indicated that the CWSI can be used to evaluate crop water stress and improve irrigation scheduling for sugar beet under semiarid conditions.