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Wast Water
Looking towards Wasdale Head
Map of 1925
Location England
Coordinates 54°26′30″N 3°17′30″W / 54.44167°N 3.29167°W / 54.44167; -3.29167Coordinates: 54°26′30″N 3°17′30″W / 54.44167°N 3.29167°W / 54.44167; -3.29167
Lake type Ribbon Lake
Primary inflows see list
Primary outflows River Irt
Basin countries United Kingdom
Max. length 4.88 kilometres (3.0 mi)
Max. width 794 metres (0.49 mi)
Surface area 2.8 km2
Max. depth 79 metres (259 ft)
Shore length1 11 km
Surface elevation 61 metres (200 ft)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.
Wast Water seen from the summit of Great Gable, 4.5 km to the NE.

Wast Water or Wastwater is a lake in the Lake District National Park, England. The lake is approximately 4.6 kilometres (almost 3 miles) long and 600 metres (more than a third of a mile) wide, and is located in the Wasdale Valley. It is the deepest lake in England[1] at 79 metres (258 feet), and is owned by the National Trust.

It is one of the finest examples of a glacially 'over-deepened' valley. The surface of the lake is about 200 feet above sea level, while its bottom is over 50 feet below sea level.

The name of the lake and its valley is pronounced as in was, not with a hard a. The lake is named "Wast Water" on Ordnance Survey maps, but the spelling "Wastwater" is used with roughly equal frequency, including by its owner, the National Trust, along with the Cumbria Tourist Board, and the Lake District National Park Authority.

The steep slopes on the south eastern side of the lake, leading up to the summits of Whin Rigg and Illgill Head, are known as the "Wastwater Screes" or on some maps as "The Screes". These screes formed as a result of ice and weathering erosion on the rocks of the Borrowdale Volcanic Group, that form the fells to the east of the lake, towards Eskdale. They are approximately 2,000 feet, from top to base, the base being about 200 feet below the surface of the lake.

The head of the Wasdale Valley is surrounded by some of the highest mountains in England, including Scafell Pike, Great Gable and Lingmell.

Wast Water is the source of the River Irt which flows into the Irish Sea near Ravenglass.

A popular path runs the length of the lake, through the boulders and scree fall at the base of this craggy fell-side. On the north western side are the cliffs of Buckbarrow (a part of Seatallan) and the upturned-boat shape of Yewbarrow.


The Sellafield connection

Water from the lake is pumped to the nearby Sellafield nuclear waste processing facility as a fresh water supply.[1] The NDA (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) has taken over the licence once held by BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels plc) which allows them to abstract a maximum of 18,184.4 m3 a day (over 4 million gallons) and 6,637,306 m3 a year from Wast Water to use on site for various processes including the cooling ponds and reprocessing (electricity production has ceased).

Britain's Favourite View

On September 9, 2007, Wast Water was announced as the winner of a vote to determine "Britain's Favourite View" by viewers of ITV.


"Wastwater" comes from "Wasdale" plus English "water".


Clockwise from River Irt

  • Countess Beck
  • Smithy Beck
  • Goat Gill
  • Nether Beck
  • Over Beck
  • Mosedale Beck
  • Lingmell Beck
  • Hollow Gill
  • Straighthead Gill


The Wasdale Lady in the Lake, Margaret Hogg, was murdered and her body was disposed of in the lake. She was found after eight years, with her body preserved like wax due to the lack of oxygen in the water.

Underwater gnomes

In February 2005 it was reported that a "gnome garden" complete with picket fence was removed from the bottom of Wastwater after three divers died in the late 1990s.[2][3] It is thought the divers spent too much time too deep searching for the ornaments. Police divers report there is a rumour that the garden has returned at a depth beyond which they are allowed. PC Kenny McMahon, a member of the North West Police Underwater Search Unit, said "Wastwater is quite clear at the bottom, but there's nothing to see. At a depth of about 48m, divers had taken gnomes down and put a picket fence around them. But several years ago there were a number of fatalities and the Lake District National Park Authority asked us to get rid of them. We went down there, put them in bags and removed the lot. But now there's a rumour about a new garden beyond the 50m depth limit. As police divers we can't legally dive any deeper so, if it exists, the new garden could have been purposefully put out of our reach."


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Underwater gnome threat 'returns'". BBC News. 2005-02-14. Retrieved 2008-10-17.  
  3. ^ "Bearded wonder". The Telegraph. 2007-03-16. Retrieved 2008-10-17.  

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