The rapid expansion of groundwater abstraction over the last forty years is outlined and the reasons for the varying degrees of success of groundwater projects, both for irrigation and water supply, are reviewed, highlighting some of the problem areas. Despite the current pause in groundwater development, opportunities still exist for expansion, particularly in the fields of rural water supply, pollution control and water quality. Recent improvements and current practices in investigation techniques, drilling, design, materials and pumps are summarized. The changing nature of the work and the training of its practitioners are discussed, leading to the conclusion that one of the most positive improvements is better training and greater expertise in groundwater, throughout the world. This aspect is emphasized by the high standard of the numerous technical publications concerned with groundwater. A description of the interaction between the roles of engineers and geologists stresses the value of interdisciplinary cooperation and the sharing of responsibilities.