Hawke's Bay Regional Council will decide in the next few months whether to carry out a detailed feasibility study on building water storage facilities in central Hawke's Bay.
Limited field investigations have identified six areas that could be suitable for storage dams, to provide irrigation water for up to 20,000 hectares of land.
Chief executive Andrew Newman says any project of that size may need to be funded by a private-public partnership.
Mr Newman says it would involve taking the surplus flow of water from the rivers in the winter, storing it and releasing it in dry periods for irrigation or to maintain sustainable ecological flows in the rivers.
He says the full feasibility study would include the cultural and environmental effects of water storage.