MP Kevin Anderson avoided six questions on whether Tamworth Regional Council's goal of 100,000 people by 2041 is realistic or not.
Mr Anderson acknowledged the city was in one of the worst droughts in living memory but would not comment on whether he thought population plans should be put on hold.
"That's a question for the council," he said.
"I'm focused on water security; what I have to do is make sure we have enough water security to sustain not only the domestic population but the business population.
"If you start losing jobs, you start losing families and we start going backwards."
Tensions flared between the council and Mr Anderson when he endorsed state government predictions that put Tamworth's population growth at fewer than 8000 people in the next 25 years.
Mr Anderson met with the council on Monday night to discuss how the business community could lower its water use, which is still over the daily limit.
He said Tamworth was too big a city to truck in water or think about alternative options for supply.
"So we have to focus on looking after what we've got now," he said.
NSW Department of Planning projections put Tamworth's population at 68,900 by 2041.
The population is expected to grow by 7900 people; 4250 of those will be born in the region and migration will make up the rest.
When the low population predictions were released, mayor Col Murray called them "removed from reality".
The council's plan is to attract people with upgrades to Peel Street, a new theatre, a university precinct, apartments opposite Bicentennial Park and a $67 million aquatic centre.