Alarming new data on groundwater in Central Hawke's Bay shows the levels are the lowest ever recorded in November.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council's principal hydrologist, Jeff Smith, said a reading from the settlement of Ongaonga, taken about 4m below ground, showed extremely low levels normally seen only in January.
Ongaonga farmer Alistair Setter said he was seeing unprecedented water issues in the district.
"Springs and waterways are going dry that have never been known to go dry," Setter said.
He said part of the Waipawa River bed had gone dry in mid-October, when it normally dried out near Christmas.
Hawke's Bay Regional Council needed to step up, he said.
"We've got to get our surface water situation balanced and stabilised and the regional council needs to figure out how to do that."
Some Ongaonga and Tikokino residents have reported running out of drinking water over summer.
Setter said it would be disturbing if a further 15 million cubic metres of water was allowed to be taken from the aquifer, as was approved by the Board of Inquiry which considered the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme and Tukituki Plan Change.
"I am very concerned when things are drying up to have a 53 per cent increase in aquifer take over what's currently allocated.
"Given our aquifer is not in equilibrium at the moment, it's going downhill, and people are experiencing problems, it's absolutely irresponsible to be allocating new water consents."
The council's group manager for regulation, Liz Lambert, said the 15 million cubic metres, known as Tranche 2, had been approved by the Board of Inquiry not the council.
She said the eight applicants had to prepare a report showing the impact the new takes would have, and what could be done to mitigate that. Until then, the applications were on hold.
"There is no expectation that these applications will be resolved and consents issued for this irrigation season."
Councillor Tom Belford said the big water users in Central Hawke's Bay were not doing anything illegal, but the system, which was the concentration of those who controlled the water supply, needed to be looked at.
"Historically, water has been allocated in New Zealand on a first come, first served basis. The result of that process in Central Hawke's Bay has been that you've got to this point of extreme concentration of who controls the water."
Regional and Central Hawke's Bay district councils have sent a survey to residents in Ongaonga and Tikokino to better understand the community's water supply situation.
Mayor Alex Walker said they wanted to get a better understanding of the problem to provide assistance.