Water Research Centre

We foster research excellence within a collaborative and welcoming environment to generate innovative solutions for the water sector’s most challenging issues in the Asia-Pacific Region.

The Water Research Centre is a cross-institutional network of leading engineers and scientists working to secure Aotearoa, New Zealand’s water future. Our mission focuses on five key areas:

• Designing water infrastructure resilient to climate change.
• Improving treatment efficiency and resource recovery.
• Developing tools to assess and manage threats to water resources.
• Shielding communities from flood, drought, and tsunami risks.
• Nurturing the next generation of water professionals.

An image showcasing bodies of water and dams

Our research

We use a cross-disciplinary approach in our research by utilising the knowledge of faculty members from different Faculty and University Research Centres. This helps us solve current and emerging challenges faced by industry and the government. 

Our research activities and development can be classified under the following three strategic areas:

1. Building resilient water systems:
Enhancing the resilience of water resources, infrastructure, and communities to disasters, climate change, and emerging contaminants.

• Post-disaster drinking water and wastewater resilience.
• Nature-based and culturally informed water systems.
• Resilient water, wastewater, and stormwater systems.
• Mapping water and wastewater vulnerabilities in NZ.
• Imparting resilience to NZ water bodies against climate change.

2. Sustainable and decentralised water management:
Developing and implementing decentralised, resource-efficient, and environmentally sustainable water and wastewater treatment solutions.

• Decentralised drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater treatment technologies.
• Māori and Pasifika community engagement.
• Life cycle assessment of environmental solutions.
• Circular wastewater treatment approaches.
• Partner with engineering design and consultancy firms to develop and showcase cutting-edge technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and micropollutant discharges in treated effluent.

3. Protecting public health and aquatic ecosystems:
Safeguarding public health and the ecological integrity of aquatic ecosystems from emerging threats and contaminants.

• Smart technologies for detecting, quantifying, and treating water pollutants (e.g., microplastics, PFAS, pharmaceuticals, toxins, heavy metals).
• Antimicrobial resistance and pathogens in freshwater and seawater
• Wastewater-based surveillance for emerging threat detection and mitigation
• An innovative analytics platform – Scalable Omics-driven Platform for Holistic Integration and Analysis (SOPHIA, meaning wisdom) – to predict and mitigate the effects of climate change on the health of waterways, aquatic organisms, and communities, as illustrated in the figure below.

A conceptual layout of our SOPHIA framework for understanding the biological responses to environmental changes in waterbodies
A conceptual layout of our SOPHIA framework for understanding the biological responses to environmental changes in waterbodies

Our teaching and training

To address the skills gap in New Zealand’s water sector, we are developing flexible educational pathways for water professionals through micro-credentials and short courses in collaboration with leading institutions.

Our facilities

We have access to state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure for water research and innovation to progress water research from conception to application:

Testing and analytical facilities:
• Physical, chemical, microbiological and process engineering laboratories
• Pilot-scale infrastructure
• Physical and computational modelling
• High-resolution chemical and microbiological characterisation of polluted environments
• Whole genome sequencing and bioinformatics analysis

Technical capabilities:
• Bench-to-pilot scale experimentation
• Manual and autonomous environmental sampling
• Theoretical and computational analysis and prediction
• Integrative multi-media environmental data analysis
• Applied environmental solutions development
• Mitigation strategies for chemical and microbiological contaminants

How can you work with us?

The health of our waters and communities faces critical threats from pollution and changing climate. We welcome diverse perspectives across all disciplines to collaboratively develop innovative solutions to the challenges. We embrace the values of manaakitanga (caring), whakamana (empowering), honesty, integrity and professional communication to build an inclusive, trusting and transparent culture.
We cannot do this alone and welcome like-minded organisations and individuals to join us in developing the science, technology and policy to protect Aotearoa New Zealand’s waters through the following activities:
• Build inclusive research partnerships:
We are collaborating with Taumata Arowai, Water New Zealand, Water Research Australia, and the Crown Research Institutes to establish an NZ Water Science Forum. Share your capabilities and contribute to building an inclusive, trusting, and transparent research culture.
• Conduct innovative research:
Collaborate on developing holistic solutions to environmental challenges faced by communities through exploratory high-risk and high-reward research initiatives and implementing innovative ideas in the field.
• Up-skill students and water professionals:
Join us in training and upskilling current and future water professionals through industry-oriented courses delivering advanced scientific content, enabling the development of thought leadership skills, and sharing the knowledge of applied water research needs and advancements.
• Connect globally:
Work with us on serving the needs of our rapidly expanding network of communities and professional organisations in New Zealand, Pacifika, India, Africa, China, and other parts of the world.

Our people


Professor Naresh Singhal


Dr. Kilisimasi Latu (Community Engagement, University of Auckland.)

Professor Bruce Melville (Industry Partnerships, University of Auckland.)

Professor Yun Sing Koh (AI Technologies, University of Auckland)


Professor Mark Milke (Teaching and Learning, University of Canterbury.)

Associate Professor Ricardo Bello Mendoza (Research and Innovation, University of Canterbury.)


Other members:

University of Auckland

Professor Ajit Sarmah 
Dr Andrew Brown
Dr Arezoo Rahimi
Dr Cody Mankelow
Dr Febelyn Reguyal
Associate Professor Lokesh Padhye
Dr Sandeeka Mannakkara
Dr Tumanako Fa`aui
Dr Wei-Qin Zhuang

University of Canterbury

Dr Hamish Mackey
Dr Simone Larcher


Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Te Mana o te Wai recognises the fundamental life-giving importance of water. Embracing Te Ao Māori perspectives and the holism of Te Mana o te Wai enables innovative solutions that protect freshwater health and wider ecosystems. We partner with iwi, Māori businesses, and Mātauranga Māori specialists to co-develop solutions aligned with Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We aim to develop holistic solutions to our water challenges by integrating Mātauranga Māori with Western science.