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Multidisciplinary Approach to Conceptual Modelling of Hydrothermal Systems



Funding: Croatian science foundation
Type: Installation research project
Duration: : 5 years
Start: 17 February 2020
Financial allocation: 1.999.912,00 HRK
Principal investigator: dr. sc. Staša Borović

Pannonian part of Croatia has favourable geothermal characteristics and natural thermal water springs emerge at two dozen localities, with temperatures up to 65 °C. These waters have been used for millennia, and in the past fifty years they are a basis for tourism and health care centres. As their water demand increased, higher quantities were abstracted. However, thermal springs are part of hydrothermal systems which include: recharge areas in the mountainous hinterlands of the springs; geothermal aquifers (mostly Mesozoic carbonate rocks) in which water resides and gets heated due to heat flow from the Earth; and discharge areas in places with favourable structural characteristics of higher permeability. The continuous functioning of such systems depends on a delicate balance between groundwater flow velocities, precipitation/dissolution processes and structural framework. In order to maintain that balance and use thermal water resources in a sustainable manner, a system-level understanding is required, and to that aim presented research is proposed.

Multidisciplinary methodology (structural geology, hydrogeology, geothermal, hydrogeochemical and geophysical research and remote sensing) will be used to construct conceptual models of systems, perform 3D geological modelling, hydrogeological and thermal parametrisation of the geological units involved in the thermal fluid flow, and conduct numerical simulations of system functioning in undisturbed conditions and with different extraction scenarios. The methodology will be tested in three pilot areas in Croatia where thermal water is used: Daruvar, Hrvatsko zagorje and Topusko.

Having good conceptual and numerical models enables both the delineation and protection of recharge areas and the determination of sustainable pumping rates, which is the prerequisite for long-term sustainable utilisation of hydrothermal systems, currently not adequately addressed in Croatian regulatory framework.

The increase in thermal water utilisation is foreseen by many European and Croatian strategic documents regulating energetics, tourism and environmental protection. Therefore, the HGI-CGS wants to establish a multidisciplinary group for hydrothermal systems research, which will contribute to responsible geothermal development in our country and be scientifically productive and competitive in calls of different funding mechanisms.


Daruvar: Ivanovo vrelo spring


Tuhelj (Hrvatsko zagorje): Vrelo u bari spring


Tuhelj (Hrvatsko zagorje): old thermal pool


Krapinske Toplice (Hrvatsko zagorje): Jacob's bath


Topusko: Bistro vrelo spring