Plans to source a small mid-Canterbury town's water from a water race used by farm animals has outraged residents.
Ashburton District Council is worried Mayfield's bore will run dry in the next few weeks following three consecutive winters of low rainfall.
It has hired a portable treatment plant that will allow it to use the water race instead.
Resident Deborah Manhire said it was disgraceful animals were being put ahead of people.
"Now that they've got the dairy industry just pumping that water out, millions of litres per minute for the cows.
"And it's not right, because the human beings now we're reducing to the stockwater - they get the first pickings on it and we get to drink what they don't."
Ms Manhire said that instead of using the water race the council should be trucking in drinking water.
Council water engineer Matthew Glennon said although the race was intended for farm animals, the treatment plant would ensure the water's safety for residents as well.
"In many ways it doesn't really matter where the water's coming from because the techniques and the processes and the treatment these days just cleans everything out superbly and you just end up with safe, clean drinking potable water."
Mr Glennon said the council was keeping an eye on bores supplying a further two towns in case they needed to be switched to water races as well.