Soil moisture monitoring in Southland, New Zealand

Dianne Elliotte - Environment Southland NZ , 30 October, 2014

This report details the inception, methods, development and issues that were encountered with the Environment Southland soil moisture monitoring network in New Zealand. In response to the new National Environmental Monitoring Standards (NEMS), Environment Southland is investigating what this means for the way the organisation monitors soil moisture and assess how to implement these for the soil moisture monitoring network.

The Environment Southland monitoring network provides a tool used by farmers to guide them with the management of the disposal of farm dairy effluent. The soil moisture data is also used in a range of other projects including catchment runoff and flood warning modelling, generating more precise assessments of groundwater recharge, water use and allocation efficiency.

The soil moisture and temperature data is available on Environment Southland’s website, which is a valuable tool for many farmers and frequently visited.
There have been a few issues setting up the network in regards to the correct installation depth of the soil moisture sensors and the bedding in process. This has been highlighted with the installation of two sensors at each site as part of the instrument replacement schedule where a difference has occurred between the two sensor readings. With these variations in soil moisture readings, questions arise around the difference in installation depths.
Until recently, the Environment Southland soil moisture network has grown rapidly without many robust standards in place. The new National Environmental Monitoring Standards will create consistent processes and management of environmental data monitoring in New Zealand.