Wonder Down Under

Blue Lake or Rotomairewhenua of New Zealand contains the cleanest natural water in the entire world. It is protected not only by Nelson Lakes National Park but also by a local tribe for its sacred waters.


If you’re anything like me, you probably wonder why and how Rotomairewhenua came to be this way. Although only seven meters deep, you can see straight through it. Students at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in Finland conducted a study called “New technology purifies waste water by freezing it first: Possible applications in mineral extraction industry”in January of 2015 that helped me connect the dots on this lake.

In previous posts I have mentioned a water treatment method called solar disinfection, which cooks bacteria to a point at which they can no longer survive. Imagine, if bacteria can die when the weather is too hot, they should also die off when the weather is too cold. The cleanest lake in the world, Rotomairewhenua, is colder than the average lake. With a temperature of 5-8 degrees C and an altitude of 1200 meters above sea level, this lake lies at the base of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. I can’t say that it is a glacier lake, however I can say that it is a very cold lake without any human interaction. Humans aren’t allowed near the water, much less in it. The study at LUT proved that when a contaminated Lake freezes over, the frozen portion of the surface can be removed and will provide water ten times cleaner than the water beneath it. Since Rotomairewhenua is so cold, it is likely that bacteria may have died off due to the conditions. In addition, similar to when you release the pressure in a balloon and particles disperse, bacteria that are elevated above sea level are under less pressure. Since Rotomairewhenua is a shallow 7 meters deep, I also wonder if the UV radiation from its high altitude and proximity to the sun has allowed UV radiation to penetrate all harmful bacteria quickly. This would repeatedly kill off bacterial growth. The lake bottom serves as the parabolic surface like in a solar cooker. I credit my mom with this last idea as she asked me earlier this week about water conditions in parabolic lakes. I hope to delve deeper into this topic in the future.

For now, the message is that nature has found a way to survive despite pollution and environmental degradation. Nelson Lakes National Park and local New Zealand tribes are truly protecting something amazing. That thing is Rotomairewhenua, which is said to mean “the lake of peaceful lands” according to the Maori people.

Link to the LUT Study: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150112093127.htm


Author: Jess T.

I blog too much for my own good.

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