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. 

The aim of our hydrogeological research is to build intergenerational wealth and wellbeing through wise custodianship of New Zealand’s freshwater in a context of changing climate. Our research programmes are structured into the five high-level research questions:

  • What are the locations and properties (structural, hydrogeological and fluid) of New Zealand's aquifer systems?
  • What are the fluxes of water into, out of and through New Zealand's aquifers?
  • What are the fluxes of key substances into, out of and through New Zealand's aquifers?
  • How have/will human activities, climate change and other pressures affect New Zealand's groundwater resources and receiving environments (e.g. springs, rivers and lakes)?
  • How can our research findings better guide water policy implementation?
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Groundwater (GW) -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 receiving environments (e.g. springs, rivers and lakes); and identify how our research can guide water policy. This programme is funded through GNS’s Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF). Duration: 2019–2024. This programme replaces the Groundwater Resources of New Zealand research programme (completed June 2019). Contact: Conny Tschritter

National Groundwater Monitoring Programme (NGMP) - This programme provides a national perspective on groundwater quality through the establishment of ‘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 New Zealand regional authorities), research and database. Duration: national coverage for the network was attained in 1998; research activities started in 2002. This programme is funded as part of GNS’s SSIF Infrastructure programme. Contact Thomas Brakenrig (operations) or Magali Moreau (programme).

aquifer potential map

New Zealand Water Model (NZWaM) -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 study areas include catchments located in the Gisborne, Horizons and Southland regions. This programme brings together NIWA (lead organisation), LCR and GNS. In the NZWaM, GNS is advancing their national models of groundwater flow, groundwater age, and hydraulic properties of the subsurface. Duration: 2016–2023. Contacts: Rogier Westerhoff and Frederika Mourot.

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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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