The high-throughput phenotypic analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana collections requires methodological progress and automation. Methods to impose stable and reproducible soil water deficits are presented and were used to analyse plant responses to water stress. Several potential complications and methodological difficulties were identified, including the spatial and temporal variability of micrometeorological conditions within a growth chamber, the difference in soil water depletion rates between accessions and the differences in developmental stage of accessions the same time after sowing. Solutions were found. Nine accessions were grown in four experiments in a rigorously controlled growth-chamber equipped with an automated system to control soil water content and take pictures of individual plants. One accession, An1, was unaffected by water deficit in terms of leaf number, leaf area, root growth and transpiration rate per unit leaf area. Methods developed here will help identify quantitative trait loci and genes involved in plant tolerance to water deficit.