For the groundwater level observed at the Haibara well, Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, time series analysis using state-space modelling is applied to extract hydrological anomalies related to earthquakes. This method can decompose observed groundwater level time series into five components: atmospheric pressure, tidal, and precipitation responses, observation noise, and residual water level. The decomposed responses to atmospheric pressure and precipitation are independently determined and are consistent with the expected response to surface loading. In the groundwater level at the Haibara well, 28 coseismic changes can be discerned during the period from 1981 April to 1997 December. There is a threshold in the relationship between earthquake magnitude and the well-hypocentre distance, above which earthquakes cause coseismic changes in the residual water level. All of the coseismic water level changes at the Haibara well are decreases, although 33 per cent of the estimated coseismic volumetric strain steps are contraction, which would be expected to cause water level increases. The coseismic changes in groundwater level are more closely proportional to the estimated ground motion than to coseismic volumetric strain steps, suggesting that ground motion due to earthquakes is the major cause of the coseismic water level drops and that the contribution from static strain is rather small. Possible pre- or inter-earthquake water level changes have occurred at the Haibara well and may have been caused by local aseismic crustal deformation.