Lake Illawarra is one of the most picturesque spots on the coast. The lake has something for everyone, from parks and jetties along the foreshore to water-based activities like boating, fishing and sailing.
The lake is home to protected plant communities, such as saltmarsh and swamp oak floodplain forest, which provide food and habitat for local birds and fish. A healthy environment in and around the lake leads to better water quality;this in turn improves the scenery and recreational opportunities in and around the lake.
Lake Illawarra contains areas of Aboriginal cultural significance from a long history of use of lake and its surrounds.
Care of Lake Illawarra is guided by a Coastal Management Program (CMP). The CMP includes physical works, monitoring and investigation, and planning and education activities.
See our Lake Illawarra CMP Snapshot PDF, 1261.48 KB for an overview of the lake and what's planned for coming years. You can also read the full CMP in the 'Planning for Lake Illawarra' section below.
We manage Lake Illawarra in partnership with Shellharbour City Council and the NSW Government.
Wollongong City Council looks after several open spaces, pathways and stormwater outlets around the lake. Shellharbour City Council looks after similar items on the southern side of the lake.
Other structures like jetties, wharves, and the bridge are managed by the NSW Government.
Report a problem at Lake Illawarra
If you need to report a problem at Lake Illawarra, contact the relevant agency.
If you’re not sure who to contact, call us on (02) 4227 7111. We’ll help if we can, or point you in the right direction.
Estuaries are unique and important natural environments. They contain a wide range of habitats and ecosystems that support many different types of plants, animals, birds and fish.
The health of Lake Illawarra can be threatened by coastal development, human activity and natural weather events such as storms and floods. However, we can help to protect and manage the estuary through the Lake Illawarra Ecosystem Health and Water Quality Monitoring Program.
This program focuses on the estuary health and recreational health of Lake Illawarra.
- Estuary health refers to the ecological integrity of an estuary.
- Recreational health of an estuary relates to the safety of the water body for swimming or boating.
Council collects and analyses data on this complex ecosystem. The information we collect helps us to understand the health and condition of Lake Illawarra so we can manage it effectively.
- Technical reports analysing water quality and estuary health indicators are produced regularly, based on the NSW Government's Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (MER) protocols.
- A report card provides a 'snapshot' of the ecological health of Lake Illawarra.
- Recreational water quality is measured by the presence of enterococci, and tells us if the water meets primary and secondary recreational water quality guidelines.
You can read recent reports and report cards for Lake Illawarra below.
|PDF File||Lake-Illawarra-Estuary-Health-Report-Card-2023.docx.pdf||2.2 MB|
|PDF File||Lake-Illawarra-Estuary-Health-and-Water-Quality-Report-2023.pdf||4.8 MB|
|PDF File||Lake-Illawarra-Estuary-Health-Report-Card-2022.pdf||2.0 MB|
|PDF File||Lake-Illawarra-Water-Quality-and-Estuary-Health-Report-2022.pdf||4.4 MB|
|PDF File||Lake-Illawarra-Estuary-Health-and-Water-Quality-Report-Card-2020-21.pdf||2.7 MB|
|PDF File||Lake-Illawarra-Water-Quality-and-Estuary-Health-Monitoring-Report-2021.pdf||4.5 MB|
|PDF File||Lake-Illawarra-Water-Quality-and-Estuary-Health-Monitoring-and-Reporting-February-2020.pdf||1.2 MB|
|PDF File||Lake-Illawarra-Estuary-Health-Monitoring-and-Reporting-June-2018.pdf||2.7 MB|
We have developed a Coastal Management Program (CMP) PDF, 11709.17 KB for the lake in partnership with Shellharbour City Council and the NSW Government. The CMP is a strategic program that will guide us in taking care of the lake over the next 5 to 10 years.
The CMP is supported by a number of studies and reports including:
- a Synthesis Report PDF, 25351.98 KB that pulls together detailed research and background information about the lake, and
- a Community Uses, Values, Threats and Opportunities Report PDF, 14539.34 KB which was created by listening to our community and lake users to understand how Lake Illawarra is used, what you value about it, and what may threaten these values and uses.
The Lake Illawarra CMP Implementation Group has also been formed to oversee and, where needed, provide advice on the implementation of actions within the CMP.
If you’d like to know more about opportunities for the community to be involved in planning for the lake, email or call us on (02) 4227 7111.
Luv the Lake Litter Prevention Program
Luv the Lake is a program delivered in partnership with Shellharbour City Council and funded through the EPA Council Litter Prevention grants program. These Council Litter grants assist local governments to deliver litter prevention projects like Luv the Lake that answer their community’s need, and protect and enhance the natural environment. These projects play an important role in achieving long-term goals for litter reduction in NSW. This project also addresses action WQ8 in the Lake Illawarra Coastal Management Program.
The aim of the project is to increase community pride, respect and ownership of Lake Illawarra and its surroundings; improve litter reduction and prevention around the lake foreshore; and deliver a multi-pronged approach that aligns with the EPA Litter Prevention Strategy.
For more information visit the Luv the Lake page on Shellharbour City Council's website.
Check this page regularly for updates and to see how you can get involved. If you'd like to help right now, check out Council's Rise & Shine Program and consider starting your own clean up group.
Report a tosser
Over 25,000 tonnes of litter is tossed each year in NSW - and sadly this is also a problem around Lake Illawarra.
If you see someone littering around our Lake, (or anywhere else, including littering from a vehicle) you can report it to the EPA.
You can also visit our Litter page to learn more about other local litter prevention programs.
NSW Government Community Consultation on Lake Illawarra Jetties
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) has reviewed feedback from the community on priority upgrade work to Lake Illawarra’s public jetties.
They have announced that five jetties will undergo repair work to ensure they can be safely enjoyed by the local community. Major repairs are being made at Tuggerah Bay Jetty, Purry Burry Point Jetty, Koonawarra Bay Jetty, King Street Jetty and Old Merinda Wharf.
For more information please visit the DPIE's website.
Estuary Health and Water Quality Monitoring
As a part of action WQ7 in the Lake Illawarra Coastal Management Program Wollongong City Council and Shellharbour City Council, in partnership with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment have been undertaking estuary health, recreational health and catchment water quality monitoring. Council collects and analyses a variety of data on the lake.
The information we collect helps us to understand the health and condition of Lake Illawarra so we can manage it effectively. Keep up to date with the results by viewing the most recent Estuary Health and Water Quality report card PDF, 2713.64 KB.
The NSW Government also conducts a water quality monitoring program, with the most recent sampling in Lake Illawarra completed over the 2020–21 summer when 2 sites were sampled monthly. Lake Illawarra received an overall estuary health grade of “A”, which is excellent! The results, along with historical water quality grades and other interesting information about the lake can be viewed on the NSW Environment website.
Bank Management Strategy for Lake Illawarra
As a part of action FB1 in the Lake Illawarra Coastal Management Program, Wollongong City Council and Shellharbour City Council, in partnership with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, engaged a consultant to develop a Bank Management Strategy (BMS) for Lake Illawarra and its major tributaries and smaller creeks.
The aim of the BMS is to assess the current bank condition of the foreshore and identify and map effective, efficient, and consistent best management practice to treat foreshore erosion at an estuary scale. This will allow land managers to better manage cumulative impacts of erosion with evidence based defendable decision making.
You can download the strategy below:
Natural Area Restoration in the Lake Illawarra Catchment
As a part of action EV1 and EV2 in the Lake Illawarra Coastal Management Program, Wollongong City Council and Shellharbour City Council, in partnership with the NSW Government, have been undertaking vegetation restoration in the Lake Illawarra Catchment. In the past few years over 80 hectares of estuarine and riparian vegetation has been managed and protected from invasion by weed species.
In the Wollongong Local Government Area, we have ongoing works across the suburbs of Windang, Lake Heights and Berkeley covering seven lake side Reserves. We have been working hard to expand the program, and it now covers a further seven reserves within the suburbs of Primbee, Koonawarra and Kanahooka.
Of course, we must say a big thank you to all the dedicated Bushcare volunteers working to keep our natural areas beautiful! Find out more about volunteering by visiting our Bushcare page.
Aboriginal Culture and Communities
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