This paper reports the results of an investigation into the preferences of irrigation farmers for different payment apparatus for irrigation fees. We also report the results of a study that queried farmers' preferred model for water governance at a local level. The results and analysis thus make an important contribution to the debate about how participatory irrigation might operate more effectively, especially in India and Pakistan. The rationale for this study is that aligning the payment mechanisms and local water governance more closely with farmer preferences is likely to reduce the barriers to accepting participatory irrigation and the requirement to pay water charges. To the knowledge of the authors, no other study has specifically addressed this issue by seeking direct feedback from farmers.