The concept behind Central Plains Water Limited was introduced in 1999.  Not until 2010 were resource consents granted for CPWL to take water from the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers.
A feasibility study in the early 2000s identified the validity of a scheme and as a result the CPW Trust was established in 2003. The Trust is a public venture, with Trustees appointed by the Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council and Ngai Tahu.

In 2003 Central Plains Water Ltd was established to raise sufficient share capital to obtain the necessary consents. These consents are owned and administered by the CPW Trust. Water will be licenced to CPWL, which is responsible for the implementation and operation of the Scheme.

In November 2004, $4.7 million was raised via a prospectus. The shares carry rights to water and while available to anyone, were fully subscribed by farmers within the scheme area.
The initial Central Plains Water scheme proposed a water storage reservoir, west of Coalgate, where the Waianiwaniwa Valley opens out to the Canterbury Plains.

This was declined in 2009 but CPWL was given the opportunity to propose a revised run-of-river scheme, which was consented in 2010. This allows for run-of-river takes totaling 65cumecs, made up of 25cumecs from the Waimakariri River and 40 cumecs from the Rakaia River, including 6 Synlait band 2, 3 cumecs of subservient water.

In 2012 CPWL received a $5 million loan from the Selwyn District Council.  This was supported in early 2013 by $ 5.7 million of funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries  Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF) and allowed for detailed design work to begin on Stage I of the scheme.

In early 2013 the Government accepted Environment Canterbury’s recommendation to change the Water Conservation Order covering the Rakaia River that allows TrustPower to release water from Lake Coleridge for irrigation when the river is low, increasing the reliability of the water supply. The TrustPower proposal includes a canal along the north side of the Rakaia River that would link Lake Coleridge with the CPW scheme sometime in the future.