Location and extent of New Zealand’s aquifers

  • Image, Aquifers.

    Aquifers are underground layers of porous rock or sand through which groundwater flows. About 200 aquifers had been identified in New Zealand by 2015. These aquifers store water that can feed lakes and rivers. They are also an important source of water for towns, cities, farms, and industries.

    We classified Location and area of New Zealand’s aquifers as supporting information.

    Key findings

    Aquifers lie under about 70,491km2 (26.3 percent) of New Zealand’s land surface, including:

    • 44,623km2 (39.2 percent) of the North Island
    • 25,868km2 (17.1 percent) of the South Island.

    Location and extent of New Zealand’s aquifers, 2015 – interactive map

    Definition and methodology

    Rock or sediment is called an aquifer when groundwater can be extracted from it in sufficient quantities and at sufficient flow rates for human use.

    Aquifers may occur at different depths in the same location. The map shows the areas of New Zealand’s land surface above one or more aquifers. The aquifer boundaries were described by White (2001), and some boundaries were updated by Moreau and Bekele (2015), using information provided by regional councils and from Lovett and Cameron (2015). The map has 153 polygons (aquifer outlines), some of which have more than one aquifer.

    Methods for defining aquifer boundaries generally rely on knowing the locations and characteristics of productive wells, and using geological maps to identify water-bearing materials. In many cases, these boundaries are also influenced by management attributes such as regional or property boundaries, and surface water catchments (Lovett & Cameron, 2015).

    Accuracy is limited by the scale of the mapping, inconsistent approaches to defining aquifer boundaries, and having limited knowledge in some locations.

    Data quality

     Topic Classification   Relevance Accuracy 
     Freshwater quality, quantity and flows  Supporting information





     See Data quality information for more detail.


    Lovett, AP & Cameron, SG (2015). Development of a national groundwater atlas for New Zealand. Unpublished document. GNS Science Report 2014/30.

    Moreau, M & Bekele, M (2015). Groundwater component of the Water Physical Stock Account. GNS Science Consultancy Report 2014/290.

    White, PA (2001). Groundwater resources in New Zealand. In Rosen, MR & White, PA (Eds), Groundwaters of New Zealand (pp45–75). Wellington: New Zealand Hydrological Society.

    Archived pages

    See Location and area of New Zealand’s aquifers (archived April 2017).

    Updated 27 April 2017


Related content

Access data files

Groundwater stocks data


Related indicators

Groundwater physical stocks

Groundwater quality


Related links

Our fresh water 2017

Environment Aotearoa 2015

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