Water footprint (WF) methodology is essential for quantifying total water consumption of crop production and making efficient water management policies. This study calculated the green, blue, grey and total WFs of maize production in Northeast China from 1998 to 2012 and compared the values of the provinces. This study also analyzed the spatial variation and structure characteristics of the WFs at the prefecture level.The annual average WF of maize production was 1029 m(3) per ton, which was 51% green, 21% blue and 28% grey. The WF of maize production was highest in Liaoning Province, moderate in Heilongjiang Province and lowest in Jilin Province. The spatial differences of the WFs calculated for the 36 major maize production prefectures were significant in Northeast China. There was a moderate positive spatial autocorrelation among prefectures that had similar WFs. Local indicator of spatial autocorrelation index (LISA) analysis identified prefectures with higher WFs in the southeast region of Liaoning Province and the southwest region of Heilongjiang Province and prefectures with lower WFs in the middle of Jilin Province.Spatial differences in the WF of maize production were caused mainly by variations in climate conditions, soil quality, irrigation facilities and maize yield. The spatial distribution of WFs can help provide a scientific basis for optimizing maize production distribution and then formulate strategies to reduce the WF of maize production.