Smiths Lake water levels at record low

Published on 06 February 2019


MidCoast Council and the NSW Department of Primary Industries - Fisheries are keeping a close watch on Smiths Lake water levels and are appealing for public help to look after the Lake environment during these dry conditions and report fish mortality.

Smiths Lake is an ‘intermittently closed and open Lake / lagoon’ and after an effective opening in June 2018 it closed over naturally in October / November last year.  “Due to high temperatures, continuing low rainfall and high evaporation rates, Smiths Lake water levels are at historically low levels,” said Council’s Manager of Natural Systems, Gerard Tuckerman.  

“The current Lake level is not a result of the way that Council manages the Lake opening, but a reflection of the current climatic conditions,” Mr Tuckerman said.

It is not possible or practical to open the Lake to the ocean during low levels. Tidal movement of sand would quickly close over any entrance created.

The Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries is closely monitoring the water quality in the Lake as low oxygen conditions and high temperatures can result in fish mortality,” said Gerard Tuckerman. The DPI has reported that due to high winds and mixing in the lake, Smiths Lake is currently considered to have moderate risk of fish mortality.

Council’s Manager of Community Spaces, Recreation and Trades, Dan Aldridge is also watching the conditions closely. 

“People can really help protect Smiths Lake during this time by not driving on the dry Lake bed,” says Dan Aldridge. “Doing so causes damage to protected marine vegetation and crustaceans, and disturbs wading birds – fines have been issued for driving on the Lake in the last few weeks.” 

“As there are low water levels, access to the water for some recreational activities is limited. We’ve kept an eye on the boat ramps, and last Friday 1 February, we scraped away the sand spit in front of the boat ramp at John Debert Reserve, Smiths Lake,” added Dan Aldridge.

“We hope this work will facilitate public use of the boat ramp, so that boaties can continue to use the Lake."

Council’s contractor undertook work in John Debert Reserve last week to remove a large tree from the foreshore that had blown over and was unsafe.  Fallen branches in the car park and picnic area were removed also and a general clean-up of the area undertaken.

Information on fish kills is available via the DPI website and fish mortality should be reported via phone to the Fishers Watch 24 hour hotline 1800 043 536 or the local fisheries office 6591 6300.

For more information about the management of Smiths Lake, you can read the questions and answers(PDF, 563KB) on the current situation, please visit our environmental web pages.