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Environmental flows

This programme is focussed on understanding the effects of human use of surface and groundwater systems to inform more sustainable water allocation decisions that benefit ecosystems and communities.

Programme Leader: Dr Doug Booker 


  • Investigate relationships between river flows, variability and environmental attributes and values to inform water allocation decisions.
  • Understand how different river flows maintain the in-stream physical environment and ecosystems.
  • Develop improved, more accurate and holistic methods for setting minimum flows for biota (e.g. sports fish).
  • Produce tools that assess effects on in-stream biota and reliability of water-supply of complex resource development across catchments and regions.  These address  the cumulative effects of multiple water uses, flow rules, water storage and climate change on waterways and take reliability, and alternative scenarios to assess large scale water management options.
  • Determine flow-dependent Maori cultural values in waterways and assist iwi participation in water management.
  • Develop methods to maintain physical habitat quality in managed rivers, including flushing of nuisance algae.

Research Projects

Research applications

Our programme has produced a series of tools and software to assist with determining and managing environmental flows.

Primary NIWA Team

Dr Hamish Biggs, Dr Doug Booker, Dr Phil Jellyman, Dr Cathy Kilroy, Dr Jo Hoyle, Dr Paul Franklin, Dr Jan Diettrich, Dr Amy Whitehead, Dr Eleanor Gee, Richard Measures, Arman Haddadchi, Dr Shannan Crow, Dr Michelle Greenwood, Juliet Milne.

Key science collaborators

  • Dr John Hayes, Cawthron Institute. Flow related habitat requirements for fish and developing in-stream habitat models with improved biological realism.
  • Dr Gail Tipa, Tipa & Associates. Developing mechanisms for proactive consideration of tangata whenua values in water allocation processes.
  • Regional Councils, including: Environment Canterbury, Horizons Regional Council and Environment Southland.
  • Department of Conservation.
  • Deltares, Netherlands.
  • University of Wales, Aberyswyth.

Recent publications

See a list of our recent related publications


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Ecohydraulics Scientist
Hydro-ecological Modeller
Regional Manager - Christchurch
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Freshwater Ecologist
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River Geomorphologist
Hydrodynamics Scientist
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Sediment Transport Scientist
Freshwater Fish Ecologist
Resource Management Scientist
Rakaia River. Credit Dave Allen NIWA.