Australian Wetlands Database

Ramsar wetlands

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Little Waterhouse Lake


Key facts and figures:

Date of listing:

16 November 1982

Little Waterhouse Lake, Photo: DSEWPaC

Australian Ramsar site number:



1, 2, 3




56.35 hectares

Drainage Division or IMCRA  region:

Tasmanian Drainage Division

Wetland type: 

  • K - Coastal freshwater lagoons; includes freshwater delta lagoons
  • M - Permanent rivers/streams/creeks; includes waterfalls
  • N - Seasonal/intermittent/irregular rivers/streams/creeks
  • O - Permanent freshwater lakes (over 8 ha); includes large oxbow lakes
  • Tp - Permanent freshwater marshes/pools; ponds (below 8 ha), marshes and swamps on inorganic soils; with emergent vegetation water-logged for at least most of the growing season
  • Ts - Seasonal/intermittent freshwater marshes/pools on inorganic soils; includes sloughs, potholes, seasonally flooded meadows, sedge marshes
  • U - Non-forested peatlands; includes shrub or open bogs, swamps, fens

Key features of the site:

Little Waterhouse Lake is located seven kilometres south-west of Waterhouse Point, and lies between the towns of Bridport and Tomahawk on the north-east coast of Tasmania. The site forms part of the Waterhouse Point wetlands complex which incorporates Blackmans Lagoon, lakes, marshlands, and creeks with active sand dunes along the coast.

The lake is a coastal freshwater lagoon that has formed in a depression between two sand dune systems after drainage to the sea was blocked by some mobile coastal dunes. Little Waterhouse Lake is brackish and has a maximum depth of 2-4 m. Lake levels fluctuate depending on rainfall, with water losses controlled by the rate of surface flow in the outflow stream, seepage through the sand, and evaporation.

Little Waterhouse Lake has dense aquatic growth and high species richness. Around the fringes of the lake, freshwater aquatic sedgeland and rushland vegetation communities are dominant. Other vegetation communities at the site include open Coastal scrub, Marram grassland, Sharp Clubsedge sedgeland and Acacia longifolia coastal scrub. Tiny Duckweed also occurs on the site and has limited distribution in Tasmania.

The Ramsar site provides habitat for the threatened Dwarf Galaxias, and the lake has a high diversity of crustacean species, such as the Burrowing Freshwater Crayfish. Three of Tasmania's eleven frog species are known to occur in the site.

The area around the Little Waterhouse Lake was significant to Indigenous groups. The North East people used the heaths and plains behind the coast, which they kept open and clear by burning. The Ramsar site is currently used for various recreational activities, particularly fishing for the introduced Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout.

Justification of the listing criteria:

The Little Waterhouse Lake Ramsar site meets three of the nine criteria:

Criterion 1: Little Waterhouse Lake is a good example of a coastal freshwater body in good condition in the Flinders Biogeographic Region of the Tasmanian Australian Drainage Division. The site forms part of the Waterhouse Dunefield Geoconservation site which is recognised as significant for Tasmania. The site consists of a system of current, active dunes moving over the top of much older longitudinal dunes, which developed at the height of the last glacial stage when Bass Strait was dry and arid.

Criterion 2: The site supports the green and gold frog (Litoria raniformis). Although this species had not been recorded at the site at the time of listing, its current presence at the site makes it very likely that it was also present at the time of listing. This is particularly likely as the species was recorded from nearby Blackmans Lagoon around the time of listing. The species was noted as being present in large numbers and also as being heard at other locations within the Waterhouse Conservation Area.

The site also supports the dwarf galaxias (Galaxiella pusilla). Similar to the green and gold frog, the dwarf galaxias was recorded at the site after listing and it is reasonable to assume that it was therefore present at the site at time of listing.

Criterion 3: The high species richness of the wetland forms an integral part of the coastal community. The lagoon also supports several species and communities which are both rare and poorly reserved in Tasmania. The site is recognised as a key site for two plant species threatened in Tasmania: River Clubsedge and Sea Clubsedge. The lake also supports a significant population of the freshwater species of planktonic dinoflagellate, Procentrum foveolata, a recently described species classified in a group previously considered entirely marine.

Please see the More Information page for additional information on this Ramsar site and access to the Ramsar Information sheets and other associated site documents.