Modified cat litter, when dispensed in New Zealand's polluted lakes, was found to reduce phosphorus levels in the water by up to 60 per cent, according to scientists.
The volcanic mineral zeolite is traditionally used for absorbency in chemical spills, sports turf and cat litter.
It has been used for treating victims in Bulgaria of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and for purifying water.
Phosphate from fertiliser, farm run-off, and septic tanks, increasingly dumped into the waterways prompt summer-time algal blooms in New Zealand.
The team at state science company Scion modified 112 tonnes of zeolite from Blue Pacific Minerals at Matamata and dumped it in the lake in September last year.
They enhanced its capacity to act as a binding agent for phosphorus and other harmful nutrients.
Scientists found that the mineral effectively enveloped the lakebed and entrapped phosphorus released from the sediment when the deeper water layers lose their oxygen in summer.
This stopped nutrient levels in the water rising to the point where blue-green algal bloom turns the lake into a thick algal soup.
"Algal booms are formed as a direct result of the high levels of nutrients, such as phosphorus, in our lakes," Stuff.co.nz quoted the Bay of Plenty regional council's lakes manager, Andy Bruere, as saying.
"We hope to see a significant improvement in Lake Okaro water quality in the next two to three years, without the need for further intervention," he added.
Scion chief executive Tom Richardson said the technology would recompense the region, because nutrient pollutants are a billion-dollar problem worldwide.
Meanwhile, Blue Pacific Minerals at Matamata, which supplied the zeolite is planning to commercialise the product.
"We think the modified product provides local and national governing bodies with another tool that will help them achieve their objective to clean up New Zealand's waterways," said Blue Pacific managing director Dave Hill.
"While clean-up plans differ depending on the nature of the pollution, the modified zeolite definitely supports goals to manage nutrients," he added.