This paper examines the economics of proposed Ruataniwha Dam. The paper finds: 1. For private investors to get a commercial return implies a water price that is uneconomic to farmers. If this is the case, the dam requires a substantial subsidy. 2. If the intention is to facilitate high intensity dairy units, then simply subsidising maize silage or palm kernel exfoliator (PKE) is a simpler and more flexible option. 3. If the Dam was to proceed, it should do so as a farmer-owned and underwritten venture – as this would align commercial risk and reward underpinned by a tangible bottom-line.