A study on the water available for farming in Rangitikei is under way, with the first of two public meetings held this week.
The Ministry of Primary Industries and Rangitikei District Council have each contributed $100,000 to the study.
Rangitikei Mayor Andy Watson said the aim of the study was to determine what water was available for irrigation and where.
"Really it's looking at what opportunities are there," he said. "What the resource is, where it is, and what it would yield to the district."
The Catalyst Group has been contracted by the district council to do the study, and the public meetings were part of it.
About 30 people, mainly farmers, turned out to the first meeting at the Marton Golf Club on Thursday.
Greg Carlyon, of The Catalyst Group, said the government had earmarked $80 million for rural water work in the district.
"There's an enormous opportunity there," he said.
Mr Carlyon also said sustainability of the water resource and the environment would be taken into consideration.
"This is not a project about driving people into irrigation," he said.
But he also added the need to irrigate would likely increase with summers becoming drier. "In five to 10 years we'll be getting what we got last summer.
"Our job is to get as much information as we can to you to help you make decisions, and the sooner we do that the better."
Of the farmers who turned up to the meeting, over half were not irrigating. Lack of need in the past, perceived capital cost and sustainability of water resources were cited as reasons.
"I'm hoping we produce information that helps you make intelligent decisions about water," Mr Carlyon said.
Another meeting for interested parties will be held at the Rangatira Golf Club on Tuesday at 5.30pm.
The initial study is due to be completed in June.
- Manawatu Standard
If you had a choice, which would you prefer on Christmas day?Related story: Sun takes a Christmas holiday