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Lakes and Reservoirs

Rivers, Lakes and Waterways of Australia

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Rivers, Lakes and Waterways of Australia
Australia does not have many natural lakes, especially those that contain a plentiful supplies of water. Rainfall and runoff can be highly variable across the continent, and so many of our rivers have had dams built, creating large reservoirs, to meet the water and power supply needs of the communities across Australia.

Water supply and shortages have always been an issue for many farmers since the arrival of Europeans to this continent. Now in these times of global warming and droughts, water shortages have become an everyday issue for entire communities located in towns and cities. Faced with varying levels of water restriction, the existing dams and reservoirs are having problems with providing enough water to cope with current demands, let alone the future needs. Changes to the way we use and recycle water provide part of the solution. Many pray for a break in the drought, and as we rely on mother nature, her answer can often come in the extreme, from drought to flood.

As well as providing the water needs for our communities, lakes and dams attract numerous native wildlife. In addition, these bodies of water are often the sites for recreational activities. Whether it is fishing, swimming, boating, bird-watching or any number of other activities, the lakes and dams are a significant drawcard for tourism.

These lakes are the largest bodies of water, whether natural or constructed, by State/Territory:
State/Territory Lake Area (km2)
South Australia Lake Eyre (salt) 9,500
Western Australia Lake Mackay 3,494
Northern Territory Lake Amadeus (salt) 1,032
New South Wales Lake Garnpung 542
Tasmania Lake Gordon 270
Queensland Lake Dalrymple 220
Victoria Lake Corangamite 209
Australian Capitol Territory Lake Burley Griffin 7.2

Source: Geoscience Australia: Largest Lakes and Reservoirs

Following are the largest constructed reservoirs by State/Territory:

State/Territory Dam Reservoir Capacity
(million m3)
Tasmania Gordon Lake Gordon 12,450
Western Australia Ord River Lake Argyle 10,760
New South Wales Eucumbene Lake Eucumbene 4,798
Victoria Dartmouth - 4,000
Queensland Burdekin Falls Lake Dalrymple 1,860
Northern Territory Darwin River - 259
Australian Capital Territory Corin - 75.5
South Australia Mount Bold Mount Bold 45.9

Source: Geoscience Australia: Largest Lakes and Reservoirs

Australia has a number of salt lakes. These lakes are normally dry, appearing as glittering sheets of salt that seem to stretch to the horizon. Lake Torrens filled only once last century and Lake Eyre filled three times, it was a newsworthy event when it filled in the year 2000:

Name State Size (km2)
Lake Eyre South Australia 9,500
Lake Torrens South Australia 5,745
Lake Gairdner South Australia 4,351

Source: Geoscience Australia: Largest Lakes and Reservoirs

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New South Wales Lakes and Reservoirs

Copeton Waters
Copeton Waters is almost three times the size of Sydney Harbour when full and surrounded by recreation areas. The park covers 939 hectares where campers can enjoy a free form style of camping. There are hot showers and amenities blocks (disabled facilities) scattered throughout the park. A kiosk and laundry are also within the park and there are 76 powered camping/caravan sites.
The Great Lakes
The Great Lakes of New South Wales consist of Myall, Wallis and Smiths Lakes, with a total area that is four and a half times the size of Sydney Harbour and totals more than 1,300 square kilometres of waters. About one third of The Great Lakes has been set aside in National Parks and State Forests. With many beaches along its 145 km of Pacific coastline, there is much to enjoy on and along it’s waterways.
Myall Lakes
The Myall Lakes is in an ancient river basin, locked between high sand dunes on the coast and much older, flatter dunes on the west. For forty kilometres, beaches, offshore islands and the most extensive brackish lake system on the state’s coastline nurture a wealth of ecological treasures. A series of geological events caused a diverse substrate that supports an immense range of habitats, from wildflower heathlands to luxurious rainforests. The dunes on both sides of the lakes run parallel to the ocean and have been built up by the sea over various ice ages and fluctuating sea levels. On the coastal edge, old land continues to be washed with new sands. Between Hawks Nest and Seal Rocks moving ‘aeolian’ dunes are constantly shape by the winds.
Smiths Lake
With the Myall Lakes National Park to the south, Wallingat National Park to the north, Booti Botti National Park to the north east, and fringed by De Bert Reserve, there is plenty for the bush walker and plenty of camping facilities in the region. Much of Smiths Lake is shallow and offers a safe place for children to play. To the east of the lake is the sandy embankment of Cellito Beach, separating Smiths Lake from the Tasman Sea. You can hire a small boat to cross the lake, to Cellito Beach, then take a plunge into the Tasman Sea.
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Queensland Lakes and Reservoirs

Lake Tinaroo
Tinaroo Falls Dam
The township of Tinaroo, also referred to as Tinaroo Falls, Tinaroo Falls Dam and Lake Tinaroo, is located on the shores of the huge artificial lake west of Yungaburra and north-east of Atherton. Tinaroo Dam was started in 1953 and completed in 1958, and was built to dam the water from the Barron River to supply irrigation for the regions tobacco farms and produce; as well as to supplement water passing through the Barron Gorge Hydro-Electricity Station. Tinaroo Dam is now one of the three largest water storages in Queensland, which is about three quarters the size of Sydney Harbour, and is often referred to just as Lake Tinaroo. Today, it’s multi-purpose use includes water supply for the Tableland towns, crop irrigation, stock watering and recreation.
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Tasmania Lakes and Reservoirs

Lake Gordon
The Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park links the great Southwest National Park to the Cradle Mountain Lake St. Clair National Parks forming a huge wilderness area that just about covers the south western area of Tasmania. It is home to the Franklin, Gordon and Olga Rivers. A region that contains wonders yet discovered, the last stands of Huon Pine, regarded as one of the worlds great timbers for it’s incredible durability, and scenery that existed before mankind’s arrival.
Lake Margaret
Built by the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company, the Lake Margaret Power Station began operating in 1914, providing electricity for company mines and associated townships. The lake itself is located up on Mount Sedgwick. The catchment area is only 20 square km, but rainfall in the region is high. Once the 200 metre long dam was built it raised the level of the original lake some six metres.

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Australia Lakes and Reservoirs - Other links

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