There's a call for a national plan for improved water storage after a new report on drought and climate change.
NIWA projections included in a discussion document indicate that droughts are expected to become more severe in most areas and more frequent and severe in already drought-prone regions.
Seasonal rainfall patterns will also change, according to the Ministry for the Environment.
It said in spring there may be less rainfall in eastern and northern regions and more rainfall in the summer in eastern areas while western areas will experience drier summers.
IrrigationNZ said the the report highlights an urgent need for a national plan to improve water storage and mitigate the effects of the more severe droughts.
"More frequent droughts and more variable rainfall will affect both urban and rural communities and will mean that we will need to rethink how we manage water in the future," said IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis.
"For example, with less rainfall forecast over summer in western areas of New Zealand, there will be more demand for water storage from both councils and farmers to provide a reliable water supply," he said.
The document highlights that having been historically 'water-rich', New Zealand is not well-prepared to cope with a future that will involve more droughts in many areas.
The report points out that: "much of our irrigation in drier areas is on a run-of-river basis, a model extremely vulnerable to drought given environmental obligations."
It said New Zealand's dependence on agricultural exports and urban reservoirs may yet be a recipe for drought vulnerability.
Irrigation NZ is keen to see more done to address the issue.
"It's positive that the government is looking at how water services will be delivered in the future," said Mr Curtis.
"The next step is to develop a national approach to plan for improved water storage for both urban and rural communities."
Rural Exchange spoke to manager of the Kerikeri Irrigation Company Tony Corcoran about their storage pond. which provides water for horticulture, Kerikeri township and lifestyle blocks.
Watch the full interview with Tony Corcoran above.