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Geothermal Science

Science informs the way we manage the geothermal resource and includes research, monitoring and modelling. This differs for all systems, depending on how systems are used and how vulnerable they are to change. For example, Rotorua system has a large number of resource users and is very sensitive to over use, so we monitor it closely.

Our surface feature database is an important part of our state of the environment monitoring programme. Other work includes measuring use through resource consents and monitoring water levels and temperatures over time. We also continually build our knowledge of how the systems work (e.g. geology) and develop mathematical reservoir models to predict the effects of use and development.

We collaborate with Waikato Regional Council on some science projects and work with science providers such as GNS to contribute to geothermal research. All of this information is used to guide decisions on consents, and policy direction such as allocation limits.

Key science projects include:

  1. Maintaining and improving our database for geothermal surface features.
  2. Geothermal surface feature mapping.
  3. Reviewing the Rotorua mathematical reservoir model
  4. Support for magneto telluric (MT) surveys (looking at deep resource).
  5. Improving the way we measure actual takes in Rotorua through our flow testing project.
  6. Ongoing maintenance of monitoring wells in Rotorua and Tauranga.
  7. Updating and reviewing the Tauranga Basin mathematical reservoir model.
  8. Thermal infra-red mapping of surface features.
  9. Bi-monthly monitoring of 40 surface features in Rotorua (e.g. temperature, chemistry)
  10. A heat flow survey of Rotorua

Council is also considering how a matauranga Māori framework can contribute to our understanding of geothermal systems and will engage with Māori for their thoughts on this.

Science technical reports are available via the link below. Hardcopies are available from council on request.

1979 Papakura Geyser

Papakura Geyser in the 1970s, Whakarewarewa Geothermal Field, Rotorua

Image: © GNS Science

Monitoring at Waimangu

Pohutu Geyser, Whakarewarewa Geothermal Field, Rotorua

Image: © GNS Science