Willandra Lakes Region, Australia

Location of the region

The Willandra Lakes Region (34°S, 143°E) is a World Heritage Area located in the Murray Basin in southwestern New South Wales. The area is divided diagonally in a southwestern to northeastern direction by the boundary of Balranald Shire and Wentworth Shire.

Outline the geographic characteristics of the immediate/local region

Their is very minimal human activity in the Wilandra lakes region. It only has a population of approx. 40 people and these people live on the outskirts of the river beds. It comprimises a varirty of minerals such as calcareous sand, marl, limestone and red dirt, and also hosts vegetation such as grasslands and cypress pine trees. The Willandra lakes which once housed six major lakes covering a total area of 1,088sq. kilometers (km) was bountiful with pristine water, has unfortunately undertaken the process of desertification. Where there once was flowing water is now nothing but dry land. There are no buildings or industries located in or near the Wilandra lakes with fair reason, it does suggest an unfit location for infastructure, the topograpghy is very undulating and full of sand dunes. The climate supports a semi arid condition, this means that it recieves a low annual rainfall of 250-500 mm.

Willandra Lakes Region
Willandra Lakes Region

Identify the significant issues/conflict present in the location

There are no obvious conflicts or issues present in the Willandra lakes region, this is due to no water for the governments to argue over.

Identify the groups involved in the conflict

There are no groups involved in a conflict, because there is no conflicts or issues.

Identify and rank the factors (SHEEPPT) underlying the conflict

Physical: The importance of processes such as evaporation, precipitaion, global warming and erosion vary in each debate.
Historical: Past connection to the location, site or resource.
Enviormental: This is a matter of an individuals knowledge, aesthetic appreciation or past experience.
Political: Past and present government policies and action; this applies to all levels of government.
Economic: Will I/we benefit in financial terms?
Social: Education, interests, exposure, to the discussion.
Technological: New methods, treatments and discoveries can influence current/future practice.

Are there any policies and/or strategies available in this location to manage water

There are currently no policies or strategies available in this location to manage water. If there is no water then there is no need for a plan to manage it. The land belongs to the Government of the state of New South Wales and they have rights to do whatever they feel necessary to the region.

Final summary of the location's future

With Australia's current weather situation, it is unlikely that the Willandra lakes will be recieveing water anytime soon. El Niño has affected the amount of rainfall significantly, leaving most eastern regions of Australia in drought like conditions. If the region was to recieve heavy amounts of rainfall in the near future it is quite likely that the lakes will be restored back to its prior conditions before the drought. Due to the area being listed as a world heritage site, there will be no urbanisation taking place there or unnecessary human activity.

Extra Info

  • Some 20 mammalian species have been recorded in the area, including the red and grey kangaroo, echidnas and several species of bats. These animals are going to continue to call this semi arid region home for a long time to come, with little to no human involvment, they are able to live in peace and prosperity.
  • Aboriginal remains have been found in sand dunes in the Willandra lakes region dating back to approx. 40,000 years ago
  • Parts of the Willandra Lakes system include: Lake Mulurulu, Willandra Creek, Garnpung Lake, Lake Leaghur, Lake Mungo, Lake Arumpo, Chibnalwood Lakes.
  • In 1981 the Willandra lakes was added to the World heritage list.

Date and History of Establishment

Only a small portion of Willandra Lakes Region is legally protected, namely Mungo National Park which was gazetted in 1979, under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1974. The size of the national park was increased by 13,000 hectare (ha), to its current size, under a proclamation published in the Government Gazette No. 51 of 27 March 1986. Willandra Lakes Region was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981. The original boundary of the World Heritage Property, encompassing 600,000 ha, was modified and reduced to its current size in 1995.
external image mungo12.jpg


240,000 ha, including Mungo National Park (27,847 ha).

Land Tenure

Government of the State of New South Wales.


Approximately 70 meters (m) at the center of the region.

Physical Features

The Willandra Lakes Region comprises a system of dry lakes formed during the lower Tertiary, when marine transgressions in the Murray Basin deposited calcareous sand, marl and limestone. These were overlain by sands and dunefields in the Quaternary. The region is characterized by linear dunes, whose west to east orientation reflects the controlling wind system. Although these relict features were stabilized by vegetation, they were reactivated around 18,000 Before Present (BP) to 16,000 BP and were subsequently re-established.
The interconnected lake basins were fed by a former tributary of the Lachlan River known as Willandra Billabong Creek. The six major lakes and numerous smaller depressions covered an area of 1,088 sq. kilometers (km), and ranged in size from ephemeral ponds to Lake Garnpung, which was over 10 m deep and over 500 sq. km. The formation of crescent lunette dunes on the eastern side of the lakes has been dated to at least 40,000 years to about 15,000 years ago, with an intensive period of dune building between 18,000 and 16,000 years ago.