Groundwater Management

High quality groundwater sustains a substantial, and increasing, amount of economic activity in New Zealand. It is the source of drinking water for about 40% of New Zealand’s population, and of irrigation water for about 200,000 hectares of land. Groundwater also sustains highly valued spring-fed streams, lakes, and wetlands.

Aqualinc’s team of engineers and scientists work collaboratively with central and local government, industry, and land-owners to develop innovative and cost-effective methods for managing this valuable resource.  We undertake consulting and research projects in a wide variety of areas, including:

  • Determining environmentally sustainable levels of groundwater abstraction.

  • Assessment and management of salt water intrusion risks.

  • Development and use of groundwater models for management of groundwater allocations (including predicting effects).

  • Integrated management of groundwater and surface water.

  • Aquifer pump tests.

  • Well and pump performance testing.

  • Groundwater level forecasting.

  • Assessing impacts of climate change and sea level rise on the environment and infrastructure.

Through research funding, we have significant expertise in areas that are key to characterising aquifer systems and hydrogeological processes. We have several peer reviewed models of aquifer systems in New Zealand and some of our recent projects include:

  • investigating the impacts of the Canterbury earthquakes on the groundwater system

  • determining the role of deep artesian groundwater on liquefaction potential

  • development of integrated surface water and groundwater modelling approaches

  • methods to inform the public on the balance between stakeholders when assessing impacts of different water use options (the Wheel of Water).

Groundwater Quality Protection

Groundwater protection is a key issue in current times, with recent crises at the front of many peoples’ minds.  Aqualinc are involved in a number of projects to assess flow and transport through aquifer systems, assisting local and regional councils, as well as land owners, to understand the cause-effect relationship.  This can vary from delineating the source protection zone around a groundwater well for public supply, to determining how regional land use change might impact on groundwater quality, and consequently on surface water quality, at distances of many kilometres down-gradient.

This area of work extends to major research projects, and Aqualinc has been involved in carrying out leading-edge research on the movement of contaminants through the unsaturated zone and groundwater systems.  The aim has been to deliver much-needed information and tools for managing land-use to protect groundwater quality.

Our work provides information and tools which are applied to solve problems concerning:

  • The long-term effects of irrigating effluent onto land.

  • Nitrate contamination of groundwater by intensive agriculture.

  • The migration of contaminant plumes in aquifers and the risks they pose to drinking water supplies.

  • The location of water supply bores to meet Ministry of Health standards, including calculating groundwater age and well head protection.

  • Land-use effects on water quality in spring-fed streams.

Sustainable Groundwater Allocation

Groundwater allocation is a crucial strategic issue for New Zealand because in most areas around NZ, groundwater forms a significant component of supply, and use of groundwater has significant economic, environmental, social and cultural effects. The scale of these effects, in physical terms, starts at paddock scale (or smaller) and accumulates to catchment scale. Water allocation decisions also have financial impacts, directly affecting the socio-economic well-being of individuals, their families, the communities in which they live, and the nation as a whole.

Through a mixture of research and consultancy Aqualinc answer a wide range of questions for their clients, such as:

  • What impact does increasing amounts of groundwater abstraction have on the flow regime of groundwater-fed rivers and streams?

  • How much do these flow regime changes affect in-stream habitat values, and ecosystem function?

  • What impact does increasing abstraction have on the reliability of water supplies to individual groundwater users, and on the socio-economic wellbeing of communities?

  • How does the community decide how much groundwater to allocate for abstraction, and how much to leave to sustain groundwater dependent ecosystems?





Irrigation Managment


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