Concern is growing as the largest water bottling plant gets underway in Christchurch.
Mineral water company Cloud Ocean Water, whose major shareholder is Chinese-owned Ling Hai Group, received consent to extract more than 4.5 million litres of water a day.
The consent was transferred from the plant's previous owner to Cloud Ocean Water in May.
Environment Canterbury councillor Lan Pham says the issue highlights the government's carelessness towards water allocation.
"I find any large extractive use of water questionable, where it's purely for private profit. A public resource is being extracted and is suffering as a result," Ms Pham says.
However, Ms Pham says water bottling consents pale in comparison to larger irrigation consents, which can be "hundreds of times greater in magnitude".
While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ruled out an export tax last week, the government says it's looking at alternatives, such as tariffs and sales royalties.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, "It's early days but I have seen some initiatives that will help us achieve our outcome of at least NZ getting some benefit from the export of bottled water without breaching our trade agreements."