A scenic lake considered perhaps the most beautiful place in Austria, and a favourite with divers, is at risk of losing its clear emerald-green waters. The culprit, some say, is a combination of warm weather and years of tourists urinating in the lake.
The green waters of the Grüner See give it its name, which means Green Lake in English.
The lake lies in Tragöß (or Tragoess) in the district of Bruck-Mürzzuschlag in Styria, Austria. The Grüner See dries out almost completely in autumn. In the spring, it fills with snow melt runoff, crystal clear water that picks up its green hue from rocks and meadow.
The Local Austria, a site which specialises in providing Austrian news in English, says the stunning tourist attraction was once extremely popular with divers. Every year the lake floods and rises to cover trees, meadows, benches and a bridge, creating a temporary underwater world.
In 2014 it was voted “Austria’s most beautiful place” in the TV show “9 Plätze – 9 Schätze” (9 places – 9 treasures).
Now, however, say the famously clear waters are becoming increasingly opaque due to higher levels of algae. Although the exact reason is unknown, some blame recent warmer winters and the growing numbers of tourists visiting the beauty spot, many of whom urinate into or around the lake.
“Strong tourism and a shortage of toilet facilities,” says Hubert Sulzer from the local mountain and nature rescue services.
Divers and swimmers have been forbidden to enter the lake this year, in a bid to maintain good water quality. Locals are demanding better management of tourism to the lake, which saw about 100,000 visitors over the past year.
All may not be lost. The Local quotes Gerald Weninger of the Tragöß Tourism Association saying the lake water may cleanse itself again in a few years if weather becomes colder.
“If it becomes cold, the algae goes away again,” Weniger says. “It always comes back after a warmer winter. But during a subsequent winter with minus 10, minus 20 degrees Celsius, it will die again. I think that the problem will solve itself.”
Weninger has lived in the area for 20 years.
Written by Peter Needham