The standard practice for assessing aquifer parameters is to match groundwater drawdown data obtained during pumping tests against theoretical well function curves specific to the aquifer system being tested. The shape of the curve derived from the logarithmic time derivative of the drawdown data is also very frequently used as a diagnostic tool to identify the aquifer system in which the pumping test is being conducted. The present study investigates the incremental area method (IAM) to serve as an alternative diagnostic tool for the aquifer system identification as well as a supplement to the aquifer parameter estimation procedure. The IAM based diagnostic curves for ideal confined, leaky, bounded and unconfined aquifers have been derived as part of this study, and individual features of the plots have been identified. These features were noted to be unique to each aquifer setting, which could be used for rapid evaluation of the aquifer system. The effectiveness of the IAM methodology was investigated by analyzing field data for various aquifer settings including leaky, unconfined, bounded and heterogeneous conditions. The results showed that the proposed approach is a viable method for use as a diagnostic tool to identify the aquifer system characteristics as well as to support the estimation of the hydraulic parameters obtained from standard curve matching procedures. Copyright (c) 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.