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Research Programmes

Investigating groundwater systems, processes and interactions with surface water.

Current Research Programmes

Te Whakaheke o Te Wai

This MBIE programme aims to optimise water management based on understanding of flow sources, pathways and lags, and develop the world’s first nationally continuous maps of groundwater age, origin and flow paths, useable for all institutions involved in water management. New Zealand lacks this knowledge, so current water management strategies cannot prevent land use degradation of rivers and aquifers, impacting cultural values, drinking water supplies, agriculture and tourism. We will derive the whakaheke of groundwater and baseflows in New Zealand’s 200 major aquifer systems and the rivers that drain them. We will measure age tracers, which integrate all flow velocities (of water and contaminants) above any measurement point. We will use complementary hydrogeological, chemical and isotope data to understand origin of recharge and flow pathways, effects of geology, seasonality and stream order. New modelling approaches will integrate the tracer and other data across scales. Working with hapū, iwi and national Māori partners, we will incorporate mātauranga-a-iwi/hapū into our models alongside the tracer and other related data. Duration: 2018-2023. Contact: Catherine Moore and Uwe Morgenstern.

Groundwater Resources of New Zealand

This programme aims to: understand the hydrogeological and structural characteristics of New Zealand’s (NZ) aquifers; determine fluxes of water and key substances in, through, and out of these aquifers; develop and apply isotopic tools and biogeochemical tracers; determine impacts of pressures (e.g., human activities and climate change) on groundwater resources; and to assist stakeholders to improve social, cultural, environmental and economic outcomes. Duration: 2011-2024. Contact: Conny Tschritter.

National Groundwater Monitoring Programme (NGMP)

This  programme provides a national perspective on groundwater quality, defines “baseline” groundwater quality, associates groundwater quality with certain causes such as anthropogenic influence, and provides best-practice methods for sampling and monitoring as well as groundwater quality data interpretation. The NGMP consists of three components: operations (collaboration with all NZ regional authorities); research and database. Duration: national coverage for the network was attained in 1998; research activities started in 2002. This programme was part of GWR up to 2016 and is now part of GNS Science’s Nationally Significant Databases and Collections. Contact: Magali Moreau.

Data portal

Incorporating environmental and indigenous knowledge for future management of freshwater resources in the Piako Catchment

Incorporating environmental and indigenous knowledge for future management of freshwater resources in the Piako Catchment (VM-P): 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. Duration: 2017-2019.  Contact: Zara Rawlinson.

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.  Contact: Paul White.

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. Case studies areas includes catchments located in the Gisborne, Horizons and Southland regions. This programme brings together NIWA (leading organisation), Landcare Research and GNS Science. In the NHP, GNS Science will further develop their models of groundwater flow, groundwater age, and hydraulic properties of the subsurface. Duration: 2016-2023. Contacts: Rogier Westerhoff and Conny Tschritter.

Past Research Programmes

  • Measuring groundwater denitrification - This project developed and validated a new method for quantifying denitrification in groundwater systems, based on measurement of “excess” nitrogen gas (N2).
  • Smart Models for Aquifer Management- This programme developoed effective and streamlined groundwater surface water flow and transport models, at local (well or spring) to large (catchment or regional)-scales. The SAM programme also provided methods for identifying optimal data acquisition efforts for multi-scale predictions.
  • SMART Aquifer Characterisation - This programme aimed to develop a suite of highly innovative methods for characterising New Zealand’s groundwater systems faster and/or less expensively than using traditional methods.
  • Tracer Validation in Hydrogeology - This programme aimed to improve groundwater models by calibration and validation using hydrochemical, temperature and age tracer data. This programme includes case study areas in the Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Southland regions.
  • Ka Tu Te Taniwha – Ka Ora Te Tangata - The Ka Tu Te Taniwha – Ka Ora Te Tangata project aimed to understand the impacts of development in the Awahou groundwater catchment to ensure the health and well-being of the Ngati Rangiwewehi people.
  • Groundwater-Surface Water Interaction
  • Climate Impacts on Hydrological Systems
  • Optimal Nutrient Removal for Wastewaters

Annual Hydrogeology Department research output reports

Previous years:

Online versions: 2015-2016