A panel of independent commissioners has declined applications for consents to irrigate 5349 hectares of land in the Upper Waitaki area.
Environment Canterbury has released the first decisions on more than 100 irrigation consent applications in a hearing process that began more than two years ago.
The commissioners have approved nine applications for land use permits for irrigation infrastructure to take water from Upper Waitaki lakes and rivers.
However, it has declined nine applications to apply the water to farm land.
The commissioners considered the most critical issue was the potential for nitrogen and phosporus to leach from irrigated pasture and damage the quality of waterways.
The unsuccessful applicants include three farming companies behind plans to develop large scale intensive dairy farming operations in Upper Waitaki, housing thousands of cows indoors for much of the year.
The three companies - Southdown Holdings, Williamson Holdings and Five Rivers - withdrew their applications for effluent consents last year after the Government called them in to be dealt with by a special board of inquiry.
But the companies decided to continue seeking water rights to irrigate the land they already farm in the Ohau-Omarama area.
Environment Canterbury expects to release the rest of the decisions before the end of the year.