Water level drawdowns are increasingly common in lakes and reservoirs worldwide as a result of both climate change and water management. Drawdowns can have direct effects on physical properties of a waterbody (e.g., by altering stratification and light dynamics), which can interact to modify the waterbody’s biology and chemistry. However, the ecosystem-level effects of drawdown remain poorly characterized in small, thermally-stratified reservoirs, which are common in many regions of the world. Here, we intensively monitored a small eutrophic reservoir for two years, including before, during, and after a month-long drawdown that reduced total reservoir volume by 36%. During drawdown, stratification strength (maximum buoyancy frequency) and surface phosphate concentrations both increased, contributing to a substantial surface phytoplankton bloom. The peak in phytoplankton biomass was followed by cascading changes in surface water chemistry associated with bloom degradation, with sequential peaks in dissolved organic carbon, dissolved carbon dioxide, and ammonium concentrations that were up to an order of magnitude higher than the previous year. Dissolved oxygen concentrations substantially decreased in the surface waters during drawdown (to 41% saturation), which was associated with increased total iron and manganese concentrations. Combined, our results illustrate how changes in water level can have cascading effects on coupled physical, chemical, and biological processes. As climate change and water management continue to increase the frequency of drawdowns in lakes worldwide, our results highlight the importance of characterizing how water level variability can alter complex in-lake ecosystem processes, thereby affecting water quality.