Govt backs fresh water research projects

  • Nick Smith
  • Wayne Mapp
Environment Science and Innovation

The Government is to invest $9.3 million over the next six years in fresh water research, Environment Minister Nick Smith and Minister of Science and Innovation Wayne Mapp announced today.

“Along with climate change, improving the management of our country’s fresh water is one of the Government’s top environmental priorities,” the Ministers said.

“Our abundant fresh water resources are a real competitive advantage for our primary and tourism industries but we need to ensure we balance the needs of a growing economy with the great Kiwi lifestyle of swimming, boating and fishing.

“Investment in scientific research is crucial to improving the management of our most precious resource.”

Dr Mapp said the $9.3 million in funding by the Ministry of Science and Innovation would go into two research projects.

“The first will pioneer new techniques for understanding groundwater, such as satellite remote sensing and use of seismic signals from earthquakes. In the other, researchers will develop a new institutional framework which enables whole communities to work together to manage their water resources within agreed limits,” he said.

Dr Smith said the two projects support the objectives of the Government’s Fresh Start for Fresh Water package announced last month.

“National’s Bluegreen approach is about stronger leadership, greater collaboration and about investing in science to support economic growth and protection of the environment,” Dr Smith said.

“This announcement of an increase in funding for science compliments the work of the Land and Water Forum and the new National Policy Statement on fresh water management.”

The two research projects are:

Smart aquifer characterisation: Subject to satisfactory science peer review, the Crown research institute GNS Science has been awarded $1.2 million a year for six years to develop a suite of innovative methods for characterising and mapping New Zealand’s groundwater systems.

New Zealand’s groundwater resource is valued at $25 billion and provides 50% of the nation’s consumptive water use and 80% of our agricultural water use.

The research team will apply new methods to overcome the current problems of data acquisition that are time- and resource-consuming, and develop specialised skills in hydrogeology, geology, satellite remote sensing, geophysics, seismology, mathematics and spatial information technology.

The wheel of water: Aqualinc Research Ltd has been awarded $700,000 a year for three years to develop a framework that has the potential to transform land and water resource users into water managers, through a collaborative process.

The researchers will develop a visual tool (the water wheel) and process for water users to individually and collectively understand how their decisions impact on water quantity and quality.

Water users can use the water wheel framework to set agreed catchment limits for water allocation and quality, balancing cultural, economic and social values, and outcomes.