Addressing water exploration, quality and management.


Groundwater accounts for roughly 30% of New Zealand’s water usage and is essential for environmental integrity, social well-being and economic productivity. 

At GNS Science Hydrogeology Department, our research and research-based consultancy address the critical issues facing groundwater resource management:

How have/will human activities, climate change and other pressures affect New Zealand's groundwater resources?

  • What are the hydrogeological and structural characteristics of NZ's aquifer systems?
  • What factors are key to maintaining groundwater quality in New Zealand?
  • What are the fluxes of key substances into, out of and through NZ's aquifers?
  • What are the fluxes of water into, out of and through NZ's aquifers?
  • How can we ensure that stakeholders will use our research results appropriately and efficiently?
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Research Programmes - click here for more details

Groundwater Resource of New Zealand (GWR)-The GWR programme objectives include: characterisation of groundwater systems including economics and policy and application of age tracers and isotopes for understanding the dynamics of hydrologic systems.

Smart Models for Aquifer Management (SAM)

This programme aims to develop optimal groundwater surface water flow and transport models to address large-scale, real-time, specific environmental problems, that use data at hand and can be used to inform target data collection to optimise them. The resulting models must be suitable for quantification of uncertainty and run sufficiently quickly to support a comprehensive risk-based evaluation of design or policy alternatives.

National Groundwater Monitoring Programme (NGMP)

This  programme provides a national perspective on groundwater monitoring used to define “baseline” groundwater quality; associates groundwater quality with certain causes such as anthropogenic influence, and best-practice methods for sampling and monitoring as well as groundwater quality data interpretation.

Data portal

Incorporating environmental and indigenous knowledge for future management of freshwater resources in the Piako Catchment - This project is a collaboration with Hauraki iwi Ngāti Hauā to collate freshwater scientific, mātauranga-a-iwi and policy knowledge about the Piako River catchment and make it available within an interactive user-focussed tool. The information will enable Ngāti Hauā to more readily make informed decisions about freshwater resource management in the Piako Catchment for both the health of the environment and the iwi.  As part of the project there will be hands-on marae-based workshops to share knowledge, and to facilitate learning through experience.

Awahou Stream

 Identification of ‘kaitiaki’ flow regimes for the Awahou Stream - This programme is a collaboration with Rotorua iwi Ngāti Rangiwewehi to identify ‘kaitiaki’ flow regimes for Awahou Stream near Rotorua. This is a new water management concept for spring-fed catchments that will bring together science and mātauranga (traditional knowledge). One of the outputs will be a water resources capability plan, which will be promulgated to other iwi and water suppliers and is expected to help other iwi with their water resources capability development.

Experimental set-up to measure neon

Measuring groundwater denitrification- This project will develop and validate a new method for quantifying denitrification in groundwater systems, based on measurement of “excess” nitrogen gas (N2).

aquifer potential map

National Hydrology Programme - This programme aims to improve national-scale hydrological knowledge across the New Zealand landscape with a combination of data on surface water, soil, geology and groundwater.

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Project Examples

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Mapping Groundwater Discharge Into Rivers Using Radon
Understanding how surface waters and groundwaters interact is an integral component of managing the influence of nutrient inputs to water quality. The aim of this research was to establish the potential of radon for measuring groundwater and river water interaction in two North Island, New Zealand gravel bed rivers. Test studies were carried out in the Hutt and Mangatainoka Rivers in the lower North Island.

3D Geological Models – Earth Beneath our Feet

Assessments of geology to identify aquifers in three dimensional models of geology for a range of clients.

More project examples

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Water Dating Laboratory

GNS Science Water Dating Laboratory has been rated the most accurate tritium water dating lab world-wide, the Dating Laboratory has 55 years of experience in high-sensitivity, ultra-low concentration tritium analysis. Find out more about Water Dating Laboratory

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Database and Tools

Use GNS Science database, maps, applications and free downloads to aid your groundwater research.

GNS Groundwater and Geothermal Database (GGW)

Free tools for download including:

  • Spreadsheet for automatic statistical analysis of water quality data
  • Capture Zone delineation simple methods spreadsheet
  • Groundwater capture zone GIS toolkit

Aquifer and geological maps of New Zealand

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Our Team

Our team of specialists in hydrogeology, isotopic sciences, geophysics, computer modelling and groundwater chemistry.

Please contact us with any inquiries you may have.

More Info...

Click here to read about our 2016-2017 research outputs

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