Water - managing our most precious resource

Farms rely on, and affect, the rivers, streams and estuaries around them. We provide resource management, research and technology services to help you optimise your water use and minimise the environmental impacts of your business. 

Assessing water resources

We can assess the reliability and availability of water resources, to help you with planning investment decisions relating to irrigation. Our assessments include the impacts of climate variability and change. We can also advise you on the design and management of water storage dams.

Monitoring compliance

We have developed monitoring tools which allow you to monitor your compliance with farm environment standards and aspirations. We can also help you with water quality and other farm environment assessments.

Mitigating runoff

We have extensive research-based expertise in the design of riparian strips for mitigating a range of agricultural pollutants and improving stream habitat quality. We can provide you with technical advice on:

  • the design and operation of advanced pond systems for treating dairy farm and other effluent
  • the design and operation of constructed wetlands for treatment of tile drainage and dairy farm effluent
  • the use of natural wetlands to treat farm runoff and minimise impacts on waterways.

Assessing land use impacts on freshwater systems

We have developed computer models which can assess the impact of land use on natural waterways and river networks, and assess the effectiveness, relative merits and cost effectiveness of a range of methods for mitigating runoff.

Managing aquatic weeds on farms

We can:

  • advise you on how to minimise flooding by controlling aquatic plants
  • provide methods of clearing nuisance aquatic weeds from waterways that are prone to flooding
  • advise you on managing weeds in farm ponds
  • advise you on the benefits of stream fencing and proper effluent management.

Farm and forest biodiversity and ecosystem enhancement

We can advise you on enhancing biodiversity on farms, managing freshwater fisheries (particularly eels, whitebait and crayfish) and managing drainage systems to optimise soil water for pasture production and nutrient use efficiency.;

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Invasive weed Lagarosiphon growing in Lake Tarawera. [Rohan Wells]

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Irrigator on a farm near Linkwater, Marlborough, 2013. [Dave Allen]

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Cows crossing the Utakura River. Cows can damage the riparian vegetation and river banks, adding nutrients and sediment into our waterways. Sediment smothers the instream habitat reducing the places where invertebrates and fish can live and eat. Credit: Piet Verburg

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NIWA Principal Scientist Chris Tanner is studying the effectiveness of constructed wetlands in capturing nitrogen and phosphorus that might otherwise leach off farms and into waterways. The right mix of rushes, reeds and shrubs, says Tanner, is critical – even when it’s dead. Plant litter, he explains, fuels the primary nitrogen removal process – microbial denitrification. Credit: Dave Hansford