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HydroLAKES aims to provide the shoreline polygons of all global lakes with a surface area of at least 10 ha. HydroLAKES has been developed using a suite of auxiliary data sources of lake polygons and gridded lake surface areas. All lakes are co-registered to the global river network of the HydroSHEDS database via their lake pour points. The global coverage of HydroLAKES encompasses 1.4 million individual lakes or reservoirs representing a total surface area of 2.67 million km², a total shoreline length of 7.2 million km, and a total storage volume of 181,900 km³. HydroLAKES only includes a limited amount of (mostly geometric) attribute information, such as surface area, shoreline length, and estimates of average depth, water volume and residence time. Every lake is also co-registered to a river reach of the HydroRIVERS dataset and a sub-basin of the HydroBASINS database (via shared IDs).

Note that the overarching HydroATLAS database fully contains all lakes of HydroLAKES, which have additionally been enhanced in HydroATLAS with a large number of hydro-environmental characteristics.

Global map of lake distribution. Canada, Scandanadiva, and parts of Siberia have a lot of lakes.

Technical Documentation

For more information on HydroLAKES please refer to the HydroLAKES technical documentation.


The HydroLAKES database is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 International License.

By downloading and using the data the user agrees to the terms and conditions of this license.


Messager, M.L., Lehner, B., Grill, G., Nedeva, I., Schmitt, O. (2016). Estimating the volume and age of water stored in global lakes using a geo-statistical approach. Nature Communications, 7: 13603.

Data download

The following HydroLAKES layers are available (click on the link to start downloading the zipped file):

Lake polygons (including all attributes) in geodatabaseformat (763MB).

Lake pour points (including all attributes) in geodatabaseformat (81MB).

Lake polygons (including all attributes) in shapefileformat (820MB).

Lake pour points (including all attributes) in shapefileformat (79MB).

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