Paddy rice (Oryza sativa L.) is a staple food and one of the major sources of dietary arsenic (As) and cadmium (Cd) in Asia. A field experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of four water management regimes (aerobic, intermittent irrigation, conventional irrigation and flooding) on As and Cd accumulation in seven major rice cultivars grown in Zhejiang province, east China. With increasing irrigation from aerobic to flooded conditions, the soil HCl-extractable As concentrations increased significantly and the HCl-extractable Cd concentrations decreased significantly. These trends were consistent with the As and Cd concentrations in the straw, husk and brown rice. Water management both before and after the full tillering stage affected As and Cd accumulation in the grains. The intermittent and conventional treatments produced higher grain yields than the aerobic and flooded treatments. Cd concentrations in brown rice varied 13.1-40.8 times and As varied 1.75-8.80 times among the four water management regimes. Cd and As accumulation in brown rice varied among the rice cultivars, with Guodao 6 (GD6) was a low Cd but high-As-accumulating cultivar while Indonesia (IR) and Yongyou 9 (YY9) were low As but high-Cd-accumulating cultivars. Brown rice Cd and As concentrations in the 7 cultivars were significantly negatively correlated. The results indicate that As and Cd accumulated in rice grains with opposite trends that were influenced by both water management and rice cultivar. Production of 'safe' rice with respect to As and Cd might be possible by balancing water management and rice cultivar according to the severity of soil pollution.