The Ashburton Community Water Trust has won approval to use the Rakaia River water for a hydro scheme.
The trust submitted a joint application with Central Plains Water Trust, which is seeking consent for a controversial irrigation scheme, even though the projects are unrelated.
The Ashburton scheme will take water from the Rakaia, run it through a power station and return it to the river.
The much larger Central Plains irrigation scheme involves taking water from two rivers and storing it in a dam, a scheme that would be built on land currently occupied by 100 farms.
The application was combined because the same water is at stake and some of the Central Plains evidence related to the Ashburton trust's application.
Four commissioners took 56 days to hear the case. The commissioners said granting the Ashburton application is no indication that the $400 million Central Plains scheme will also be approved.