A project looking to reduce nitrate levels in groundwater around Ashburton is underway.
The Hinds Drains working party was exploring ways to address what it said were consistently high levels of nitrates in the lower Hinds Plains' groundwater.
The working party was helping the Ashburton Zone Committee, which was responsible for local water management, with recommendations on minimum flows and water allocations.
Committee chair Donna Field said a Managed Aquifer Recharge, or MAR, project was being explored to manage declining water quality and quantity in the catchment.
Ms Field said nitrate levels have increased with the intensification of farming in the area.
She said the project was designed to replenish groundwater.
"Essentially we'd be looking at getting a clean source of water ... and then scientists will look at an area that's suitable to have an infiltration basin so if you could imagine an old quarry pit, that's probably not what they'd use and just put the water into there either by piping it or through canals or drains and it would slowly filter down into the ground water systems."
Ms Field said the pilot project was underway, and consenting and final design work was expected to be completed in early February.
"We've come a long way from this being a strange term to actually looking at getting the consents for it and starting to put some trials in this year, just to see how it's going to work.
"We're looking in the lower drains area ... and some of those water ways are supplying stock water and with the loss of the border dyke infiltration into it and with this dry period what will happen is it will infiltrate through that into the ground water and reactivate some of those springs," she said.