Research Programmes

Investigating groundwater systems, processes and interactions with surface water.

Current Research Programmes

Latest research outputs 

Click here to read about our 2016-2017 research outputs

Groundwater Resources of New Zealand

The Groundwater Resources of New Zealand (GWR) Programme is GNS Sciences’ MBIE SSIF hydrogeology research programme. This programme aims to: understand the hydrogeological and structural characteristics of New Zealand’s 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. Contact: Rogier Westerhoff.

Smart Models for Aquifer Management

This programme develops effective and streamlined groundwater surface water flow and transport models, at local (well or spring) to large (catchment or regional)-scales. This programme also provides methods for identifying optimal data acquisition efforts for multi-scale predictions. The resulting models are suitable for quantification of uncertainty and run sufficiently quickly to support a comprehensive risk-based evaluation of design or policy alternatives. These models can be rapidly built and therefore cost less to deploy than is the current norm; thus, providing more widespread model based support for any model budget. This programme is a collaborative initiative between GNS Science (Lead), National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), the University of Waikato, Victoria University, Market Economics, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Waikato Regional Council and Environment Southland. Contact: Cath Moore.

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. Contact: Magali Moreau.

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.  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.

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).  The project is funded by the “Innovative and Resilient Land and Water Use” theme of the Our Land and Water, National Science Challenge. All groundwaters contain dissolved gases derived from the atmosphere during recharge, including N2. In addition to the dissolved atmospheric N2, groundwaters can also contain excess N2 that accumulated from denitrification reactions. The dissolved atmospheric N2, at the time the water entered the groundwater system, can be established by the measurement of noble gases that are part of the atmosphere, usually argon (Ar) and neon (Ne). This enables differentiation of the excess N2 produced via denitrification reactions from atmospherically derived dissolved N2. The project will develop a method to measure Ne in addition to our existing Ar and N2 techniques, and use the measurement of the three gases to measure excess N2 in pilot studies. the neon method will also increase the accuracy of sulphur hexachloride (SF6) dating through better constraining excess air which impacts the water ages derived from the SF6 tracer. Contact: Heather Martindale.

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. Contact: Rogier Westerhoff.

Past Research Programmes

Annual Hydrogeology Department research output reports

Previous years:

Online versions: 2015-2016