Efforts to improve irrigation in central Hawke's Bay are being stepped up to address water shortages and help farmers cope with drought.
The Regional Council is spending nearly $900,000 on a feasibility study for water storage infrastructure.
A leadership group and an ownership company will be set up, and potential dam sites will be identified.
Detailed aerial photography of possible storage sites is starting this month.
So far, a smaller study has focused on the Ruataniwha Plain which has about 25,000 hectares of land that could be irrigated. At present, about 6,000 hectares are irrigated.
The council says the initial project will take about two years, and should ultimately improve conditions by alleviating pressure on low river flows in the summer.