Carbonate rocks present a particular challenge to hydrogeologists as the major groundwater flux is through an integrated network of dissolutionally enlarged channels that discharge via discrete springs. The channels span a very wide aperture range: the smallest are little more than micro-fractures or pathways through the rock matrix but at the other end of the spectrum (and commonly in the same rock mass) channels may grow to dimensions where they can be explored by humans and are called caves. Groundwater transmission through the smaller channels that are commonly intersected by boreholes is very slow and has often been analysed using equivalent porous media models although the limitations of such models are increasingly recognised. At the other end of the spectrum (and commonly in the same rock mass) flow through the larger conduits is analogous to ‘a surface stream with a roof’ and may be amenable to analysis by models devised for urban pipe networks. Regrettably, hydrogeologists have too often focussed on the extreme ends of the spectrum, with those carbonates possessing large and spectacular landforms regarded as “karst” whereas carbonates with little surface expression commonly, but incorrectly labelled as “non-karstic”. This can lead to failures in resource management. Britain is remarkable for the variety of carbonate rocks that crop out in a small geographical area. They range in age and type from Quaternary freshwater carbonates, through Cenozoic, Mesozoic and Paleozoic limestones and dolostones, to Proterozoic metacarbonates. All near surface British carbonates are soluble and groundwater is commonly discharged from them at springs fed by dissolutionally enlarged conduits, thereby meeting one internationally accepted definition of karst. Hence, it is very appropriate that Britain, and Birmingham as Britain's second largest city, hosts this International Conference on Groundwater in Karst. The meeting will consider the full range of carbonate groundwater systems and will also have an interdisciplinary approach to understanding karst in its fullest sense.