Millions of litres of emergency water could be made available to some Hawke's Bay farmers if a drought hits the region this summer, Hawke's Bay Regional Council says.
There was strong chance a predicted El Nino weather pattern could bring hot, dry conditions to a region that is already dealing with falling groundwater and river levels.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council chief executive James Palmer said there was a provision for 200 litres per second to be drawn from the Tukituki River in an emergency.
But he said the council still needed to work out how it would be allocated.
"We are giving some thought to what is the best way of using that water for land owners."
Crop and tree stock farmers would be eligible but not pasture farmers, he said.
Farmers from Ongaonga and Tikokino questioned why they were being given emergency water for free too.
Ongaonga resident Kirsty Beagle said she had to pay for tank water.
"Are these people that are going to be taking an amount [from the river] going to be paying? No, it's free and it's not good enough at all."
Meanwhile, Central Hawke's Bay District mayor Alex Walker said she was "really uncomfortable" with the regional council granting consents to eight big water users who wanted to take 15 million cubic metres of groundwater from the Ruataniwha aquifer.
Known as the Tranche 2 consents, the applications were on hold until all eight applicants submitted their scientific data to the regional council next month.
Now the Ruataniwha Dam was no longer on the table the district needed to carefully weigh up how much water was being taken from the aquifer, Ms Walker said.
"I feel really uncomfortable about adding another layer of complication to that water security."
The district needed to find an appropriate balance between how much water it had, and how much it was using, she said.
'If we keep taking...it's going to get even harder to find that balance," Ms Walker said.