Hydrogeology studies groundwater, its characteristics and flow dynamics, relations with the surrounding geological structures and its connectivity with surface waters into the natural cycle of water.
In Slovenia, the majority of drinking water comes from groundwater resources. Groundwater is used also for irrigation, industrial water, heating and cooling with heat pumps. Thermal water is used for recreation, healing and heating. Mineral water is used as bottled water.
Groundwater is part of the world water cycle. Groundwater in Slovenia predominantly originates in precipitation and meteor waters, which infiltrate into the ground, flow through rock fissures and sediments and surfaces as a natural or artificial (boreholes and wells) spring.
Our activities include design and drilling of boreholes, drainages and wells for the purpose of catching drinking, mineral, thermal and industrial water and for irrigation. Planning is carried out on the basis of previous data and additional field measurements. Data are obtained from excavations, boreholes, springs, water level and discharge measurements, aquifer tests, tracing tests, chemical and isotopic analyses of water and geophysical measurements. The main purpose of wells, excavations, hydraulic tests and other investigations is to assure a long-lasting sustainable use of groundwater and its appropriate chemical and biological quality according to the intended use.
Groundwater flow crosses property and national boundaries. With good water management water use can be optimised and water pollution and depletion limited and controlled, which helps to prevent disputes between groundwater users. Our task is to set the highest sustained water abstraction and coordinate different types of water use, i. e. drinking water, thermal water, irrigation, industrial water.
During the design stages of spatial interventions, which can lead to water pollution, e. g. waste disposals, chemical plants, waste water drainage, intense farming etc., we provide data about the quantity of actual and planned water use. Quantity and quality, depth and direction of groundwater flow is influenced by a number of human activities, e. g. hydropower plants, embankments, stream bed regulations, tunnels, excavations, sewerage systems etc.
Construction in the presence of groundwater is very demanding. Our hydrogeologists provide expertise in geological and hydrogeological circumstances in various terrains in order to prevent or limit water inrushes during the construction works for deep excavations and tunnels on the one hand, and to maintain necessary groundwater level during water drainage in order to prevent subsidence on the other hand.
Dams are never entirely watertight. Water leakage can lead to the raise or drop of groundwater level. We have the knowledge to predict groundwater flow through or around a dam, which enables the designer to define stability in and around it.
Hydrology has to be taken into account when planning any land development activity bellow the ground surface, even for individual housing, especially when it is constructed on a ground susceptible to landsliding.
Water quality is directly associated with the health of present and future generations of mankind. Our hydrogeologists participate in impact assessment and spreading prediction of groundwater burdening pollutants, e. g. spillage of toxic substances, waste disposals, industry discharges, and in planning of prevention measures and pollution treatment.
Groundwater quantity status deterioration is usually shown in the lowering of groundwater level. This does not result only in increased exploitation expenses due to deep placement of water pumps, but can damage numerous ecosystems, such as wetlands and similar environments.
Our hydrogeologists have many experiences with the determination of groundwater protection zones, which are of utmost importance for drinking water protection. Groundwater protection zones define the limitations in land development, whit which the risk for water source pollution is significantly reduced. In some areas in Slovenia, groundwater quality is unfortunately so low, that water in some water supply networks has to be mixed with surface stream water, which is in some places of better quality than groundwater, or with water pumped from deep wells.
During high water periods, groundwater sometimes rushes into buildings or spills over the ground surface and damages buildings and farming land. Flooding can raise pollution risk, e. g. with faeces and fuel oil.
Most landslides are connected with groundwater, namely when soil is saturated with water its strength is reduced and it can easily slide along the sliding surface. Land sliding can be stopped by means of groundwater drainage or the diversion of water away from the landslide.
In karst areas, dramatic appearances of sinkholes are occasionally reported. Sinkholes appear when groundwater sweep away soil from under the surface through karst channels, which causes the ceiling of an underground hole to collapse. This risk can be managed through good understanding of groundwater flow.
The objective of our basic hydrogeological research is to study hydrogeological processes in small scale and interpolate the results to wider areas. With the results of basic hydrogeological research we can explain the origin of waters and assess available quantities of drinking, mineral and thermal waters as well as the deposits of mineral and energy resources. In Slovenia, basic hydrogeological research often involves cross-border areas in which we share natural resources with the neighbouring countries. The aim of basic hydrogeological research is to test the hypotheses, which can lead to important practical solutions, e. g. water resources management, pollution risk reduction, catchment security etc.