Further understanding the mechanisms of landscape–water interactions is of great importance to water quality management in the Xitiaoxi catchment. Pearson's correlation analysis, stepwise multiple regression and redundancy analysis were adopted in this study to investigate the relation between water quality and landscape at the sub-catchment and 200 m riparian zone scales during dry and wet seasons. Landscape was characterized by natural environmental factors, land use patterns and four selected landscape configuration metrics. The obtained results indicated that land use categories of urban and forest were dominant landscape attributes, which influenced water quality. Natural environment and landscape configuration were overwhelmed due to land management activities and hydrologic conditions. In general, the landscape of the 200 m riparian zone appeared to have slightly greater influence on water than did the sub-catchment, and water quality was slightly better explained by all landscape attributes in the wet season than in the dry season. The results suggested that management efforts aimed at maintaining and restoring river water quality should currently focus on the protection of riparian zones and the development of an updated long-term continuous data set and higher resolution digital maps to discuss the minimum width of the riparian zone necessary to protect water quality.