The original review of macropores and water flow in soils by Beven and Germann is now 30 years old and has become one of the most highly cited papers in hydrology. This paper attempts to review the progress in observations and theoretical reasoning about preferential soil water flows over the intervening period. It is suggested that the topic has still not received the attention that its importance deserves, in part because of the ready availability of software packages rooted firmly in the Richards domain, albeit that there is convincing evidence that this may be predicated on the wrong experimental method for natural conditions. There is still not an adequate physical theory linking all types of flow, and there are still not adequate observational techniques to support the scale dependent parameterizations that will be required at practical field and hillslope scales of application. Some thoughts on future needs to develop a more comprehensive representation of soil water flows are offered.