WCFM Research Projects

Priority Research Themes | Student Research | Research Outputs

The Research Strategic Vision of the Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management (WCFM) is to “integrate disciplinary water research to provide interdisciplinary solutions to freshwater management problems”. The Centre currently hosts two key projects; the S4/Selwyn Super Science Site, and the Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere Integrated Monitoring Strategy.

S4/Selwyn Super Science Site

The Selwyn Waihora catchment is a complex catchment which is representative of freshwater issues facing communities and decision makers across New Zealand. Issues include intensification of agricultural land use resulting in an increase of non-point source contaminants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and pathogens such as e-coli into both surface and ground water. Demand on water resources has grown, particularly for groundwater to supply irrigation. Increasing urban populations within the Selwyn district also require clean, safe drinking water.

The Selwyn/Waikirikiri river is valued by local communities as a place for fishing, swimming and recreational use. Over the last few years there has been a lot of public concern because of algal blooms and extended periods of very low flow. At the bottom of the Selwyn catchment lies Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, the fifth largest lake in New Zealand. Despite Te Waihora having a high eutrophic level due to the last 150 years of land management practices, it continues to support significant commercial eel and flounder fisheries, plus biodiversity and recreational values. Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is increasingly vulnerable to pressures from the catchment above. Finally, the impact of climate change on fresh water in the district is not very well understood.

The S4/Selwyn Super Science Site is an aspirational concept with the aim to trial the Selwyn-Waihora catchment as a teaching and research hub. The project acts as a conceptual framework to recognise and celebrate existing teaching and research activities. The catchment features as a teaching site in the following WCFM undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

If resources allow, the S4 Project identifies opportunities to concentrate new research investigations into the catchment. Current projects are listed below.



Agritech Braided Rivers Project

Dr. Leanne Morgan is part of a multi disciplinary team rolling out a MBIE-funded five-year research programme (2019-2024) which aims to help regional councils manage their water resources and meet the Government’s freshwater quality standards by 2025. Lincoln Agritech Ltd (Programme Lead Scott Wilson) has been awarded almost $8m in MBIE funding for the project, which will provide the first accurate information about how much water is lost from braided rivers into groundwater. The programme will deliver new knowledge regarding the Selwyn/Waikirikiri, Wairau and Ngaruroro rivers, along with models allowing councils to estimate water loss from any part of any braided river. It will also quantify the environmental and economic benefits of different river management strategies.

S4 Student Research Projects

Topic Student Supervisor
Groundwater seepage into Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere (PhD 2019-2021) Katie Collucio Dr. Leanne Morgan
Groundwater - surface water exchange in the Selwyn/Waikirikri River (Masters 2020-21) Linda Robb Dr. Leanne Morgan

Representing the surface water and groundwater interactions of a hill-fed braided river within a numeric groundwater model in the Waikirikiri/ Selwyn River and surrounding shallow groundwater systems. (Masters - 2019-2020)

Daniel Clark Dr Leanne Morgan, Dr Tim Davie and Julian Weir
Oral Histories of the Selwyn-Waikirikiri River. (WCFM Summer Scholarship 2018-2019) Ollie Rutland- Sims Dr Emma Stewart and Dr. Stephen Espiner

For more information about the S4/Selwyn Super Science Site, contact Dr. Leanne Morgan, WCFM Senior Lecturer.

Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere Integrated Monitoring Strategy

The WCFM coordinates the Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere Integrated Monitoring Strategy. Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is New Zealand’s 5th largest lake and largest coastal lagoon. 40 generations of human history can be traced to the lake. It is a significant eel fishery, an internationally recognised wetland, and home to 167 species of bird. The strategy is a three year project (August 2017- August 2020), which aims to centralise existing monitoring data relevent to Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, plus fill key gaps in monitoring data. The strategy was developed by Prof. Ken Hughey (Lincoln University) and is a living document which is reviewed on an as-needed basis.

This project is funded by Te Rūnaga O Ngāi Tahu. Key agencies involved include:

Projects and Outputs

  1. A SharePoint database hosted by Lincoln University which holds information about what kinds of monitoring data is collected, and where it is held. Access is restricted to nominated persons only.
  2. A Masters thesis investigating vehicle damage on Green Park Sands (due for completion May 2020).
  3. Waitatari/Harts Creek Bird Hide: Exploring Visitor Book Data (2017-2019) WCFM Report 2020-001 (PDF 2.3MB).
  4. Te Waihora Recreation Monitoring Framework (2020) LEaP 46. (PDF 2.2MB).
  5. Vehicle counting technology installed at a variety of sites around the lake.

Contact Katie Nimmo, WCFM Project Manager for more information.