Two large dairy farms want to take enough water from the Waikato River to supply nearly half the population of Auckland.
This comes as Watercare is seeking more water from the river to bolster the city's water supply during the worst drought in Auckland's history and water restrictions.
Information obtained by Greenpeace shows a farm outside Taupō and a farm at Mangakino in the Waikato have applied separately to the Waikato Regional Council to take a total of 161 million litres of water a day from the river.
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Auckland's 40,000 businesses and 1.6 million residents, including nearly 30,000 farmers and people living on lifestyle blocks, use about 400 million litres of water a day.
Wairarapa Moana Ki Pou has applied to take 90 million litres a day at its 10,695ha farm at Mangakino. Wairakei Pastoral Ltd has applied to take 71 million litres a day at its 25,000ha farming estate outside Taupō.
Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman said most of the 113 applications ahead of Watercare in the queue are dairy farms, including the "astoundingly large" applications by Wairarapa Moana and Wairakei Pastoral.
Norman, who obtained the list under the Official Information Act, said Aucklanders were trying to get drinking water by having to compete with commercial dairy operations.
"It draws into stark relief the true scale of the environmental impact of industrial dairying.
"I'm not going to get into the rights and wrongs of individual applications, but make the point about the huge scale and impact of this model of agriculture," said Norman.
He said the drinking water and household use of water by people should be the first cab off the rank when it comes to access to fresh water.
Watercare, which has 117 applicants ahead of it in the queue for a resource consent hearing, made an application in 2013 to take an extra 200 million litres a day from the Waikato.
It already has consent to take 150 million litres a day. It has got a further 25 million a day from the Hamilton allocation to help during the water crisis and is working to secure 50 million more daily before next winter.
Faced with the severe water situation in Auckland, Environment Minister David Parker said in June that Watercare's application would be fast-tracked.
Watercare does not have an issue with the large amount of water being sought by the two dairy farms, with a spokeswoman saying anyone is entitled to apply to take water from the river.
"Generally speaking, all of these entities contribute to their local communities and New Zealand as a whole ... and are compelled to use the water wisely and contribute to improving the health of the awa [river]," she said.
Wairakei Estate is managed by Tramco, an Auckland-based property investment company with more than $1.8 billion of assets.
Tramco chief executive Angela Bull said the estate holds a consent to draw water from the Waikato River on behalf of a water-user group comprising the estate and a couple of other users in the wider catchment.
She said the amount of water drawn from the river varies depending on seasonal conditions, but currently averages about 48 million litres a day.
The application for a further 71 million litres a day is to support future plans, she said.
"That application has not been processed and we are currently reviewing our business needs and assessing whether that application is required," Bull said.
The Herald has sought comment from Wairarapa Moana Ki Pou about its consent application.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff said it would be inappropriate to comment on applications that are still before the consenting authority.