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AquifersNgā puna manawa whenua

The Regional Council monitors over 100 wells for short and long term changes in groundwater levels and quality. Find out quick facts about Heretaunga and Ruataniwha aquifers and others.

Our Hawke’s Bay aquifers provide groundwater that we use for drinking, agriculture, horticulture, industry and the environment.

There are nine productive aquifer systems in Hawke’s Bay, two large – Heretaunga, Ruataniwha – and seven smaller - Mahia, Nuhaka, Wairoa, Esk, Poukawa, Papanui/Otane, Waipukurau/Waipawa.

Here is a useful infographic about our Aquifers.

What we know about aquifer water quality

Water quality in our main Hawke’s Bay aquifers is generally very good and meets NZ Drinking Water Standards. 

Hawke's Bay Regional Council operates more than 100 wells for monitoring short and long term changes in groundwater levels and quality.  We monitor key water quality indicators such as nitrate-nitrogen, bacteria levels (Escherichia coli or E. coli), dissolved iron, dissolved manganese, and total hardness.

Some of the smaller northern aquifers have naturally occurring higher levels of iron, manganese and total hardness. This is because the water picks up minerals as it moves through the rocks and aquifer.

The longest monitoring record is near Fernhill where groundwater levels have been measured since 1968.  Most wells were developed in the early 1990s following the establishment of the regional councils. 

We also gather water use data from irrigators and industry, which is valuable information to help everyone make the best water management decisions.

What we know about the Heretaunga Aquifer

The earliest scientific information for the Heretaunga Plains comes from drilling records at Meeanee, where an artesian bore flowed with a positive pressure of six meters above the land surface in 1967, which is about the same as today.

In the 1990s the Heretaunga aquifer was investigated by the Regional Council and the national research agency GNS Science.  The resulting 1997 report examined drill logs, deep drilling studies and geophysical, chemical and hydrological data.  This work was used to develop our current policies for groundwater management in the Hawke’s Bay Regional Resource Management Plan (RRMP).

The Regional Council is currently working with stakeholders to review land and fresh water management policies for the wider Heretaunga Plains, including the aquifer and the Tūtaekurī, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamū  – referred to as the TANK catchments.

The Regional Council has developed a computer groundwater model for the Heretaunga aquifer. This also feeds data to another computer model, which shows how the water flows between  groundwater and rivers and streams on the surface.

These models help us and the community better understand and decide how water is used in the TANK catchments.

Heretaunga – quick facts

Size:    460 square kilometres 

Depth:  Productive aquifer system is generally up to 50m in depth, although may be up to 300m deep in some places

Consented volume: The total groundwater allocation is approximately 160 million cubic metres per year.  

Number of consents: Approximately 1,700 resource consents are issued to take this water

Management Plan: Review of Regional Resource Management Plan currently in progress for the Tūtaekurī,, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamū catchments including the aquifer

What we know about the Ruataniwha Aquifer

The Regional Council has developed a computer model of the Ruataniwha aquifer system. This was used to develop land and water management policy and rules for the Tukituki Catchment through the Regional Resource Management Plan Change 6. Limits for water allocation and water quality were set so that this resource can be used sustainably.

Ruataniwha – quick facts

Size:  Approx 800 square kilometres

Depth:  Productive aquifer system is generally up to 60 m in depth, but up to 200 m deep in places.

Consented volume:  Total groundwater allocation is currently set at 28.5 million cubic metres per year.

Number of Consents: Approximately 60

Management Plan: Regional Resource Management Plan Change 6 in 2015 set limits for water quality and quantity.

Smaller aquifers

Mahia, Nuhaka, Wairoa, Esk, Poukawa, Papanui, Waipukurau/Waipawa. 

These smaller aquifers have lower use – mostly domestic and stock water supply, with some irrigation.  Northern aquifers have naturally occurring higher mineral content (calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese) and some sites exceed the NZ Drinking Water Standards.

Environmental Telarc


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