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Aqua Intel Aotearoa

How can we balance the need to protect New Zealand’s water resources with the desire to grow our regional economies? By working to learn as much as we can about water availability, above and below ground.

That’s the goal of Aqua Intel Aotearoa: insights and actions for sustainable water use.

Aqua Intel Aotearoa is a partnership between Kānoa (the delivery arm of the Provincial Growth Fund) and GNS Science. It is a national science platform on regional water availability and storage.

Aqua Intel Aotearoa works with scientists, the government, councils, iwi and local stakeholders to improve our understanding of groundwater and surface water in the regions.

Our investigations of water availability inform the decisions made by regions about water allocation in the context of Te Mana o Te Wai.

Where we are working

Aqua Intel Aotearoa is currently funded to work with four regions: Northland, Gisborne, Otago, and Southland. Engagement is underway with councils, iwi and other stakeholders for the proposed investigations. Other regions may be added to the programme later on. 


Improve our understanding of the Te Hiku aquifer, better understand surface water flows, measure the potential for harvesting high (winter) flows, and groundwater test drilling in Pouto.

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Undertake aquifer mapping to improve our understanding of the aquifers, and assess surface water flows.


Interpret Glass Earth data related to the region's groundwater.


Improve our understanding of Southland aquifer/s, and better measure the potential for harvesting high (winter) flows for water storage and wetland improvement.


We have used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping to get initial indications of the most productive water sources for each region. 

Using that information, we are undertaking in-depth assessments of specific water sources in each region, where this is of value to the region’s communities. These include aquifer mapping, surface water monitoring and test drilling.

In addition to the scientific benefits of AEM, the AIA approach provides a constructive process for councils and iwi to work through challenging discussions about historical water consents, data sovereignty and future arrangements to protect water resources. 

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Parengarenga Harbour credit Lloyd Homer GNS Science.jpg


Aquifer: the rocks and sediment that form a natural storage place for groundwater to move through.

Groundwater: water underneath the ground, which moves through different types of rocks and sediment.

Groundwater recharge: the process of water moving through the land and soil/rocks into the aquifer (to become groundwater).

Surface water: any body of water above ground (e.g. lake, river, stream).



Enhanced Water Quality – AIA’s work provides enhanced information to appropriately manage water takes and protect groundwater. This enables more water to be returned to maintained in  rivers and other surface waterbodies, facilitating the implementation of Te Mana o Te Wai.


Enhanced Water Management – improves the national understanding of New Zealand’s water availability and interactions between groundwater and surface water.  

Sustainable Regional Productivity - supports sustainable land productivity while protecting waterbodies  

Climate Change Resilience - informing drinking water and roading resilience, saline intrusion extents, and improving groundwater models for sea level rise impact prediction. 


National Input on Water Management – informs NICF and others in providing input to government to ensure waterbodies are protected. 

Iwi as Kaitiaki – provides a basis for iwi to engage with councils as kaitiaki, augmenting matauranga Māori. 

Māori and whenua – supports Māori to undertake whenua development. 


Regional Councils – reducing uncertainty and improving modelling for setting water allocation policies. 

District councils – identifies and protects drinking water sources, improved information for long term land planning (GW levels, sea level rise impacts). 

Three Waters Authorities – identifies, protects and enhances drinking water sources. 


Enhanced substrata research – provides foundational data on which to undertake regional and national research related to aquifers and substrata (lithology), such as:

  • water availability 

  • geothermal availability for decarbonising energy use in horticulture, housing, and industry

  • Fault zone mapping to improve hazard assessment 

  • Improved data for groundwater models to test impacts of climate change and sea level rise.


Environmental Advocates – informs engagement with the government and councils to ensure waterbodies are protected  

Environment Court – informs judgements about the impact of resource consents and proposed land use on water 


Reliable drinking water – identifies sources of reliable drinking water for long term and/or emergency supplies. 

Productivity – identifies sources of water for land development and industry, and for low carbon energy provision, including low temperature geothermal. 

Recreation – enables better groundwater and surface water management to improve surface water quality outcomes including swimmability 


Media Release: 20 February, 2024

Media Release: 6 December, 2023

Media Release: 2 March, 2023

Media Release: 14 December, 2022

Media Release: 16 November, 2022

Media Release: September 28, 2022

September 28, 2022

Media Release: 4 April, 2022

Media Release: 10 February, 2022

Media Release: 5 October, 2021

Get in touch with Aqua Intel Aotearoa to learn more about our projects or ask a question.

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