Last updated:7 June 2023
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|
|South Australia||Lake Eyre (salt)||9690|
|Victoria||Lake Corangamite (salt)||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|
|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.
|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.