The Central Plains Water Enhancement Scheme is a community irrigation scheme that was established in 2003, it employs around 30 professional staff and is governed by a Board of 9 Directors. When the Scheme is finished being built (September 2018) it will have the capacity to provide water to an irrigable area of 60,000ha within a command area of over 100,000ha of the Canterbury Plains between the Southern Alps to the west, State Highway 1 and the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers.

The Scheme is being built in stages and they are described as Stage 1Stage 2  and Sheffield. The Scheme will utilise run-of-river water from both the Rakaia and Waimakariri rivers supported by stored water from Lake Coleridge.

With a current estimated project cost of around $450 million (excluding on-farm costs), the Central Plains Water Scheme is a significant construction project for the South Island.