A community forum is expected to be held in Central Hawke's Bay before the end of the year as councils try to deal with looming water supply issues.
The forum is one part of an initiative by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council and the Central Hawke's Bay District Council which are also establishing a taskforce to manage immediate to longer-term water quantity challenges, stemming from a meeting between councils last Thursday.
The meeting was called amid concerns groundwater levels in the Ruataniwha Basin have dropped as extraction for irrigation has dramatically increased over recent years, although levels are expected to stabilise with extraction limits in place.
Additionally the councils agreed to survey Tikokino and Ongaonga residents to better understand their current water supply situation and inform assistance offered by the councils, and work closely with irrigators and industrial users and the wider community to deal with new minimum flows in the Tukituki Catchment, which are likely to have an effect on irrigation this summer.
The regional council already has a programme under way including reviewing the groundwater monitoring network to redevelop the Ruataniwha Groundwater Model, investigating possibilities for managed aquifer recharge, and plans for an electro-magnetic aerial survey of the aquifer geology, which will give the HBRC the ability to better manage water takes and impacts.
CHB council chief executive Monique Davidson said everyone at the meeting recognised a "significant challenge" facing the area, and the councils are committed to working with the community to find long term solutions, as well as support people and businesses already facing the challenges.
"This joint approach will ensure the best decisions are made for our community and our district's vital groundwater resource," she said.
"Central Hawke's Bay District Council recognises the critical leadership role it plays in working alongside the Hawke's Bay Regional Council on this matter," she added.
"We understand the community's concerns and are committed to assisting the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to find solutions that balance the social, economic, environmental and cultural needs of our community."
Regional council chief executive James Palmer said the meeting was a positive joint step towards addressing the challenges.
"There is no quick fix to solve all the challenges," he said.
The plans would "help build a clear picture of how we can sustainably manage groundwater use" in CHB, while also supporting the community through the coming summer.
At Thursday's meeting, Ongaonga residents said they had spent more than $126,000 in the past decade upgrading pumps or installing emergency water tanks, as the water level of the Ruataniwha basin continues to drop.
Tikokino and Ongaonga residents blamed increased farming irrigation and said it wasn't just a Central Hawke's Bay issue, it was a regional issue.
Central Hawke's Bay deputy mayor Ian Sharp said he had attended the meeting to hear residents' concerns and said his council was "going to put their weight behind it".
"This affects everyone and it's an issue across the district, we want to hear peoples' concerns and if there's anything we can do."