Groundwater science in New Zealand

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Forty percent of people in New Zealand rely on groundwater for their drinking water, yet that water is vulnerable to contamination. 

Groundwater quality and management

Through an in-depth, research driven understanding of groundwater contamination processes, our team of groundwater scientists help clients to identify and address issues associated with landuse intensification and its effects on groundwater quality. We also design tools for water managers to enable them to assess, predict and minimise the impacts of land use, and landuse changes, on groundwater quality. 

Pesticide Survey

ESR undertakes a national assessment of pesticide in groundwater as part of a four yearly survey. 

The survey is for district and regional councils, to assess the quality of their groundwater resources. Samples are taken from approximately 165 wells and tested for a range of  over 80 pesticides.

ESR has been co-ordinating the groundwater survey since 1990.

The current survey is for the first time testing for glyphosate (the active ingredient in a popular weed killer), along with a number of new “emerging contaminants”.

ESR’s principal scientist Murray Close says current survey results, which were due earlier this year, are delayed due to technical issues in one of the laboratories processing the samples. He says this is likely to  be resolved by mid-August with final results expected to be available to the participating councils by the end of September.

Results of the last groundwater survey can be found here(external link):

ESR also undertake more general, ‘on-request’ assessments of regional groundwater quality for councils.

Groundwater scientists working together 

ESR, along with groundwater scientists at GNS Science(external link), Aqualinc(external link) and Lincoln Agritech(external link) are working together, building on each other’s strengths, to improve the understanding and quality of groundwater research. We call this the Groundwater Platform.

GroundsWell 2019

On Friday 5 April 2019, the Platform is sponsoring GroundsWell 2019, a symposium on groundwater management and research.  This symposium is bringing the best minds in the groundwater space together to look at groundwater science and what needs to be done to improve the understanding, information, tools and research capacity of groundwater in New Zealand.  

Registration for the symposium can be made on the Eventbrite website at GroundsWell Symposium 2019(external link).  

The day is focused around four issues:

  • He Waiora – Māori insights on groundwater management
  • Groundwater under pressure: characterisation, drivers/ pressures and stressors
  • Managing groundwater at the front line
  • Groundwater prediction and dynamic responses.

The last session of the day will then be interactive as we all work together to make sense of what we have heard and what needs to be done. 

Read the  GroundsWell-Symposium-5-April-2019-Programme-web.pdf  by clicking on the link. 

GroundsWell Newsletters 

Read about the work of each of these organisations in GroundsWell [PDF, 4 MB], the newsletter about groundwater science in New Zealand.

[PDF, 4 MB]

Read more about ESR's water expertise.