Cotton is unusual among major crops in that large acreages are grown under both irrigated and rainfed conditions, making genotype x environment interactions of even greater importance than usual in designing crop-improvement strategies. We describe the impact of well-watered versus water-limited growth conditions on the genetic control of fiber quality, a complex suite of traits that collectively determine the utility of cotton. Fiber length, length uniformity, elongation, strength, fineness, and color (yellowness) were influenced by 6, 7, 9, 21, 25 and 11 QTLs (respectively) that could be detected in one or more treatments. The genetic control of cotton fiber quality was markedly affected both by general differences between growing seasons ("years") and by specific differences in water management regimes. Seventeen QTLs were detected only in the water-limited treatment while only two were specific to the well-watered treatment, suggesting that improvement of fiber quality under water stress may be even more complicated than improvement of this already complex trait under well-watered conditions. In crops such as cotton with widespread use of both irrigated and rainfed production systems, the need to manipulate larger numbers of genes to confer adequate quality under both sets of conditions will reduce the expected rate of genetic gain. These difficulties may be partly ameliorated by efficiencies gained through identification and use of diagnostic DNA markers, including those identified herein.