Residents in Ongaonga amd Tikokino in Central Hawke's Bay are running out of water, and it's not even summer.
Residents presented a petition to the regional council last month over falling groundwater levels causing their taps running dry, which they blame on too much water from the Ruataniwha Basin being used for irrigation by farmers.
But parched residents of Ongaonga and Tikokino should look to the Central Hawke's Bay District Council to end their water woes, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's Iain Maxwell said.
Ongaonga resident and petition organiser Bill Stevenson sees it in plain terms.
"Something is raping the aquifer and it's not us."
Two summers ago, Tikokino's fire station ran out of water.
Chief Fire Officer Mike Harrison said the bore had to be deepened from 70 feet to 120 feet.
With a further 15 million cubic metres of water due to be allocated to farmers, Stevenson petitioned the guardians of the aquifer, Hawke's Bay Regional Council, asking it to restrict the extra water.
The regional council said the lowering of the water table in summer is likely linked to farm irrigation, but said it was legally bound to implement the water allocations made by a board of inquiry.
The Council said it would be best if residents look to other alternatives for their water supply.
When asked how residents might overturn the resource consents and access the water table over summer, Maxwell said a more practicable solution would be for the Central Hawke's Bay District Council to put down a community bore at a secure depth for residents.
"Rather than several hundred individuals having to resolve this issue themselves, it is probably far more effective for the community to work with the District Council to investigate construction of a community-supply bore – a bore at a depth that will never run dry – as a pragmatic option," Maxwell said.
A plan change process would be "very, very expensive, will require an extensive body of science which will be very expensive, will require notification and appeals and consultants and lawyers. It may well fail at the end of all that."
Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker said if water was piped to every home, extra usage might necessitate a community sewage system.
"If they come to me and present that wish for reticulated water, we will explore what that looks like," she said.