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.

The project identifies areas where there is both water available and good-quality land that could be brought into higher-value production – in particular, to benefit Maori landowners.

Te Mana o te Wai – the concept of protecting the health and wellbeing of freshwater – will be an important part of the ethos for each project.


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 measure the potential for harvesting high (winter) flows, and groundwater test drilling in Pouto.

14492_Lloyd Homer_GNS Science.jpg


Undertake groundwater drilling to improve our understanding of the aquifer, 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.

Wheat Field


  • Strengthen regional economies by shifting to higher value sustainable land uses.

  • Address disparities in Māori access to water for land development.

  • Support micro to medium-scale water storage projects that strengthen regional partnerships and provide wider public benefits

  • Support land use that does not increase - and ideally reverses - negative impacts on water quality, and maintains and improves the health of waterways.

In meeting these objectives, we will also consider how investment can:

  • contribute to a just transition to a low emissions economy and/or contribute to building community resilience to climate change

  • provide an incentive to change land use that risks degrading the environment to high value more sustainable uses.



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 plan to do more 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.

We are talking to councils, iwi, and other stakeholders about whether the areas we want to assess focus on the right water sources for each region. If the use of some water sources is not acceptable to the regions, we want to know now so we can focus our future work on water sources they want to develop. 

Waterway close-up credit Northland Regional Council.jpg
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).


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

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