It has generally been assumed that little attention need be given to the design and construction of rural water supply wells as the yield requirements are small and the construction costs low. A different view is presented in this paper, illustrated by examples from several African countries. New thinking is required if limited financial and trained manpower resources are to be used effectively in providing reasonably low-cost but adequate and reliable groundwater supplies. The argument that a substantial hydrogeological input will be expensive is countered by demonstrating that neglect of hydrogeological principles and practices can result in very much higher costs. The need for hydrogeologists and water engineers to be aware of the social and institutional aspects of rural water supply work is stressed.