The results of research done on water relations of rubber are collated and summarised in an attempt to link fundamental studies on crop physiology to crop management practices. Background information is given on the centres of origin (Amazon Basin) and production of rubber (humid tropics; south-east Asia), but the crop is now being grown in drier regions. The effects of water stress on the development processes of the crop are summarised, followed by reviews of its water relations, water requirements and water productivity. The majority of the recent research published in the international literature has been conducted in south-east Asia. The rubber tree has a single straight trunk, the growth of which is restricted by ‘tapping’ for latex. Increase in stem height is discontinuous, a period of elongation being followed by a ‘rest’ period during which emergence of leaves takes place. Leaves are produced in tiers separated by lengths of bare stem. Trees older than three to four years shed senescent leaves (a process known as ‘wintering’). ‘Wintering’ is induced by dry, or less wet, weather; trees may remain (nearly) leafless for up to four weeks. The more pronounced the dry season the shorter the period of defoliation. Re-foliation begins before the rains start. The supply of latex is dependent on the pressure potential in the latex vessels, whereas the rate of flow is negatively correlated with the saturation deficit of the air. Radial growth of the stem declines in tapped trees relative to untapped trees within two weeks of the start of tapping. Roots can extend in depth to more than 4 m and laterally more than 9 m from the trunk. The majority of roots are found within 0.3 m of the soil surface. Root elongation is depressed during leaf growth, while root branching is enhanced. Stomata are only found on the lower surface of the leaf, at densities from 280 to 700 mm−2. The xylem vessels of rubber trees under drought stress are vulnerable to cavitation, particularly in the leaf petiole. By closing, the stomata play an essential role in limiting cavitation. Clones differ in their susceptibility to cavitation, which occurs at xylem water potentials in the range of −1.8 to −2.0 MPa. Clone RRII 105 is capable of maintaining higher leaf water potentials than other clones because of stomatal closure, supporting its reputation for drought tolerance. Clones differ in their photosynthetic rates. Light inhibition of photosynthesis can occur, particularly in young plants, when shade can be beneficial. Girth measurements have been used to identify drought-tolerant clones. Very little research on the water requirements of rubber has been reported, and it is difficult to judge the validity of the assumptions made in some of the methodologies described. The actual evapotranspiration rates reported are generally lower than might be expected for a tree crop growing in the tropics (<3 mm d−1). Virtually no research on the yield responses to water has been reported and, with the crop now being grown in drier regions, this is surprising. In these areas, irrigation can reduce the immaturity period from more than 10 years to six years. The important role that rubber plays in the livelihoods of smallholders, and in the integrated farming systems practised in south-east Asia, is summarized.