One method of mitigating the damaging effects of earthquake-induced liquefaction is to provide rapid dissipation of excess pore pressures by the use of vertical drains through the liquefiable material. Drain systems are currently designed using a chart-based approach. Field experience suggests that the performance of these installations cannot yet be accurately predicted. In this paper, high quality centrifuge testing is used to help clarify drain behaviour. It will be established, supported by centrifuge test data, that the pore water from a radially expanding zone of soil contributing to drainage through the drains is developed. Naturally, the geometry of this expanding zone changes with time. It will be shown that fluid from deeper strata is drained first, reducing the effectiveness of the drain for near-surface soil layers. It is concluded that these zones are useful in analysing more complicated drain system geometries.