AquiferSim is a regional-scale model of nitrate transport in groundwater and is part of the research programme ‘Integrated Research for Aquifer Protection (IRAP)’. IRAP members are: Lincoln Ventures Ltd, Landcare Research, Environment Canterbury, Plant & Food, AgResearch, Dexcel, ESR and Aqualinc). The model predicts the long-term effects of agricultural land use on groundwater quality in the underlying aquifers and groundwater discharge to surface waters. The aim is to help inform decisions about the future of land-use and water resource planning at a national level. AquiferSim works in tandem with another model under development by Lincoln Ventures, called FarmSim, which predicts the effect on the groundwater as a whole. The root-zone nitrate concentration and recharge information can also be supplied by other models like Overseer or SPASMO.


A groundwater nitrogen transport model that intends to assist answer two main questions: 1) What is the long-term effect of land-use change (such as a conversion from sheep to dairy) on groundwater in various parts of a system? 2) How long will it take to achieve this long-term effect?

State of Development Unknown
Current Development Activity None

Development Contact

Vince Bidwell
+64 3 325 3704
Lincoln Ventures Ltd
PO Box 133, Lincoln Christchurch 7640 New Zealand

Main Developers

  • Landcare Research
  • Lincoln ventures Ltd


Outcome Areas Environmental
Management Domains Land, Freshwater
Subdomains Contaminant Losses, Crop/Farm Systems
Intended End Users
  • Researcher
  • Regional Council Scientist
  • Policy Analyst
  • General Usability
  • Regional Councils
Spatial Resolutions 10-100m, 100-500m, 500-1000m
Spatial Extents Local (i.e. Catchment or District)
Spatial Dimensions 2D
Temporal Resolutions Unknown
Temporal Extents Decades
Steady State or Dynamic Steady State
Level of Integration Environmental

Input & Output Data

Input Data Formats XLS(X), GIS compatible files
Output Data Formats GIS Compatible Files


Open/Closed Source Open Source

User Information

Operating Systems MS Windows
Software Needed ArcView
User Interface Graphical desktop
Ease of Use Moderate GIS expertise is required for preparing the data layers including those generated by other models. AquiferSim has several idiosyncrasies that the analyst must be aware of, that are described in the user documentation. Groundwater modelling expertise is also required to ensure sensible definition of hydraulic boundary condition and interpretation of results.
Use in Policy Process Plan (Policy Formulation), Review (Issue Identification)

Lincoln Ventures, Landcare Research, 2011. AquiferSim User Documentation. IRAP Integrated Research for Aquifer Protection.

Technical Considerations

Programming Language AquiferSim is a .NET2 console application (written in Visual C#) that can run as a plug-in tool in ESRI ArcView Desktop 10.0 (or ArcInfo) and Spatial Analyst.
Analytical Techniques Input/output, GIS
Model Structure


Keywords Nitrate, groundwater, land use
Key References - see Bidwell and Good, 2007. "Development of the AquiferSim model of cumulative effect on groundwater of nitrate discharge from heterogenous land use over large regions. Conference paper:

Associated Case Studies

  • AquiferSim - Mataura Valley, Southland

    This case study outlines a pilot AquiferSim case study that was set up for the mid-Mataura Basin (Southland).

    Read more
  • Other Key Case Studies

    Hurunui catchment by Landcare Research, NIWA, Lincoln Ventures Ltd, Environment Canterbury - reported in Lilburne, L., Elliott, S., Bidwell, V., Shankar, U., Kelly, D., Hanson, C., 2011. Hurunui catchment-scale land use and water quality modelling report. Prepared for Environment Canterbury, Report No. R11/15, viii+49pp.

    Mataura (Southland)  by Landcare Research, ESR, Lincoln Ventures Ltd. - reported in Lilburne, L., Moore, C., Bidwell, V. and Burbery, L., 2012. AquiferSim modelling of the mid-Mataura Valley. Envirolink 1004-ESRC238, Prepared by Landcare Research for Environment Southland.