Largest Waterbodies

Satellite image of Uluru in Central Australia's outback Northern Territory.

Gordon Dam, Tasmania.
Photo courtesy Cam Botherway

Australia is not well endowed with natural lakes containing plentiful supplies of water. Both rainfall and runoff can be highly variable across the continent and many rivers have dams containing large reservoirs constructed on them to meet water and power supply needs.

The most significant water management project undertaken in Australia is the Snowy Mountains scheme which includes 16 large dams. The scheme diverts water from the Snowy and Eucumbene Rivers on the east of the Great Dividing Range through the Snowy Mountains to the Murray and Murrumbidgee River systems on the western side of the range. The water is used to generate electricity and for irrigation farming in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The project, which took 25 years to complete, was undertaken by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority.

Another significant irrigation scheme dam is Lake Argyle on the Ord River in Western Australia.

Largest lakes by State/Territory

These lakes are the largest waterbodies, whether natural or constructed.

STATE/TERRITORY LAKE NAME AREA (km2)
Australian Capital Territory Lake Burley Griffin 7.2
New South Wales Lake Garnpung 542
Northern Territory Lake Amadeus (salt) 1032
Queensland Lake Dalrymple 220
South Australia Lake Eyre (salt) 9690
Tasmania Lake Gordon 272
Victoria Lake Corangamite 209
Western Australia Lake Mackay 3494

Largest constructed reservoirs by State/Territory

These lakes, held back by dams, are the largest waterbodies serving water and power supply needs.

STATE/TERRITORY DAM NAME RESERVOIR CAPACITY (million m3)
Australian Capital Territory Corin - 70.9
New South Wales Eucumbene Lake Eucumbene 4798
Northern Territory Darwin River - 259
Queensland Burdekin Falls Lake Dalrymple 1860
South Australia Mount Bold Mount Bold 45.9
Tasmania Gordon Lake Gordon 12 450
Victoria Dartmouth - 4000
Western Australia Ord River Lake Argyle 10 760

Largest salt lakes

Salt lakes are normally dry, appearing as glittering sheets of salt that stretch to the horizon. Lake Eyre filled only three times last century, and Lake Torrens only once.

NAME STATE SIZE (km2)
Lake Eyre South Australia 9690
Lake Torrens South Australia 5745
Lake Gairdner South Australia 4351

The sizes of the water bodies listed have been determined using 1:2.5 million scale data.