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Why has Pink Lake lost its colour?

The dynamics of why a lake turns pink is very complex and external changes and weather conditions can have a big impact. Esperance’s Pink Lake has lost its pink colour due to a number of contributing factors. With the construction of the railway line and South Coast Highway, Lake Warden and the eastern lakes no longer flush into Pink Lake during heavy rains, this flushing brought in accumulated salts from other lakes into Pink Lake. Commercial salt mining, which began in 1896 and ceased in 2007 also reduced salt levels in the lake.

Further reductions to the lake’s salt concentration has been caused by freshwater entering the system through a combination of surface water inflow and increased groundwater inflow due to clearing in the catchment area associated with nearby subdivisions of land.

Essentially, increasing salt concentrations, combined with decreasing water levels from evaporation during summer, trigger the appearance of the pink colour that can be seen in lakes across the country.

Will Pink Lake ever be pink again?

With the right salt concentration being essential to the growth of the green alga Dunaliella salina and the archaea Halobacterium cutirubrum, the lake can be pink again should the salt concentrations increase and the right balance be attained that encourages growth. This means the lake may become pink again, however it cannot be guaranteed, as science has a way of throwing the odd curve ball.

Is Pink Lake’s real name Lake Spencer?

Pink Lake was once known as Lake Spencer. However in 1966 the then Shire President, CR W S Paterson, requested the name be changed to Pink Lake, seeing this as a positive move in capitalising on a local tourism attraction. Unfortunately over the years Pink Lake lost its colour due to a combination of environmental circumstances that has meant the name is not quite as apt anymore.

What is the Shire doing about Pink Lake?

The Shire is not the responsible agency for the Lake itself; therefore we are unable to make big changes regarding its current predicament. However as the Lake is a popular tourist attraction we are keen to work with all  associated agencies to determine whether there are ways to assist in returning the lake to its former glory without adversely impacting the surrounding environment.

We have been working on a new sign that explains why the lake is no longer pink and this will be installed as soon as possible. Unfortunately a sign at Pink Lake is at the end of the journey for a tourist; they have seen pictures on the internet and have built up expectations of what they expect to see. This is particularly the case when many photos on the internet incorrectly refer to Pink Lake when they are actually Lake Hillier, Middle Island.

The sign currently in place, explaining what makes a lake pink, has been left there to allow travellers to understand the environmental processes involved and get an understanding of the science behind pink lakes.

Where possible, Shire staff have contacted internet sites that show incorrect information and have explained the current situation, requesting these sites be updated. Visitor Centre Staff explain to all tourists that the lake is no longer pink and offer alternative scenic attractions. 

If you are aware of a site that is promoting Pink Lake using photos of Lake Hillier, please do not hesitate to ring the Shire on 9071 0666 and we will contact the owners of the site.

Why can’t you just change the name?

Changing the name of a geographic landmark is not a simple process. Additionally, changing the name will not erase the significant references and images of Pink Lake picture that abound on the internet. There are a number of local businesses and references to Pink Lake that highlight the value of the lake to our community and our history. In short, simply changing the name will not correct a number of the issues currently being experienced.

An application would need to be made to the Geographic Names Committee.   


Photo Credit to C Green, Pink Lake, circa 1970's.