Tile drainage water temperatures and discharge rates were measured in five highland watersheds of which most are underlain by acid crystalline rock. One of them, Dehtáře in the Bohemo-Moravian highland (Czech Republic), was studied in greater detail. The aim was to evaluate water temperature monitoring as a means of determining the source and pathway of drainage runoff during high-flow events. Rapid increase in drainage discharge was accompanied by rapid change in water temperature. In winter, the rising limb of the hydrograph was accompanied by a decrease in temperature, and the falling limb was associated with a corresponding temperature increase. In summer, the trends were reversed. These data suggest that the water temperature changes are caused by the fastest component of drainage runoff, water from a precipitation event or snowmelt, which can be separated from the remainder of the hydrograph. Measurements of hydraulic conductivity, soil moisture content, soil temperature, and groundwater table level indicate that the major portion of the event water causing this effect infiltrates in the watershed recharge zone where soils are permeable, enters the weathered bedrock, flows preferentially and rapidly down the slope along disjoint fissures in the bedrock, finally emerging as ascending springs, and is, for the most part, intercepted by the tile drainage systems. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.