More than 20,000 rural residents who rely on streams or untreated rainwater have benefited from a government grant paid out in the past year to upgrade substandard water supplies
The Drinking Water Subsidy Scheme is a Ministry of Health initiative that allocates up to $10 million a year to communities most at risk of sickness due to unclean water.
The scheme, launched in 2006, runs until 2015.
The ministry's public health engineer, Paul Prendergast, says the money goes to remote disadvantaged communities with fewer than 5000 people and pays for water pipes, treatment systems and storage tanks.
He says the biggest town to get funds was Te Kuiti but many small marae communities and small settlements such as Rahutu in south Taranaki - population about 100 - have been recipients, along with neighbouring farms connected to the town supply system.
Applications for the 2012 funding round are due by the end of February.