Federated Farmers says the Government should bear some of the cost of increasing water storage to supplement irrigation schemes.
Following the latest drought declaration in the South Island, irrigation interests were calling for more water storage, particularly from alpine fed sources.
The Government was providing support from its Crown Irrigation Fund to get new schemes up and running.
But that was in the form of loans that had to be repaid.
Federated Farmers' Environment and Water Spokesperson Ian Mackenzie said the irrigation fund provided no greater benefit than investors could get from commercial banks.
He said that does not reflect the value water storage provided to the community and environment, and the Government should be part-funding these schemes.
"The Crown Irrigation Fund is lending on only commercially viable projects and if you qualify for money from the fund then you actually qualify for money from the commercial banks and as I understand it, you can get better terms from commercial banks than you can from the Crown, which makes it a bit clumsy to use, really.
"I think there's a case that if the public want some substantial co-benefit in terms of some of these developments that are going ahead, the Government could justify actually part-funding some of these projects on the basis of the social, economic and environmental benefit that accrues," he said.
Mr Mackenzie said South Canterbury's Opuha dam was an example of a scheme that provided other uses including hydro electricity as well as irrigation, and would benefit from government investment to supply alpine water to stop it drying out, as it was doing in the current drought.
"Some of the co-benefits of these projects need to be thought about. Lake Opuha itself is a huge recreational playground for the South Canterbury community and the Opihi River, given that it actually does have water in it year round, because of the Ophua dam, is much the same.
"And I look at the McKenzie hydro projects. In today's world, they'd never get off the ground, because (a), the governmment would require them to be funded purely commercially and (b), you just couldn't afford those projects in today's terms or you wouldn't even afford to get past the consenting process."