Hydrogeological and isotope mapping of the karstic River Savica in NW Slovenia

  • Mihael BrenčičEmail author
  • Polona Vreča
Original Article


Hydrogeological mapping comprises a group of methods with which the area of interest is carefully inspected for the appearance of groundwater related phenomena. During the mapping of groundwater and surface water, samples can be collected for further analysis. On the karstic River Savica (NW Slovenia) the methodology of detailed hydrogeological mapping was tested by which, every 100 m along the river course, samples of water were collected for stable isotopic composition of oxygen (δ 18O). River Savica results from two main tributaries (Velika Savica and Mala Savica) recharging on a high mountain karstified plateau with an average discharge of 5.08 m3/s. Application of hydrogeological mapping methodology to the riverbed resulted in a conceptual model of the groundwater components entering the river. Based on the end member mixing models and with the application of isotope and electrical conductivity data as conservative tracers, it was possible to estimate the contribution of different karstic groundwater components to the river outflow. For the first time it was estimated that, under low and average water conditions, Mala Savica contributes from 12 to 17 % and Velika Savica from 78 to 82 % of the total River Savica discharge, there being only minor inflow from the other sources.


Hydrogeological mapping Surface water groundwater interaction Stable isotopes Karst River Savica 



The authors warmly acknowledge the technicians at the Department of Hydrogeology, Geological Survey of Slovenia, Zmago Bole and Jože Herič, who carried out all three sampling campaigns under very difficult field conditions and Stojan Žigon from Department of Environmental Sciences, Jožef Stefan Institute for help with isotope analyses. The mapping was performed in the frame of the European project funded by the Alpine Space programme under the European Territorial Cooperation 2007–2013 “Alp-Water-Scarce—Water Management Strategies against Water Scarcity in the Alps”. Isotope analyses and their interpretation were performed under the IAEA CRP "Use of Environmental Isotopes in Assessing Water Resources in Snow, Glacier, and Permafrost Dominated Areas under Changing Climatic Conditions". The paper was prepared in the context of the research programmes P1–020 and P1–0143 supported financially by the Agency for Research of Republic of Slovenia.

Supplementary material

12665_2016_5479_MOESM1_ESM.doc (98 kb)
Results of hydrogeological mapping in August 2010.
12665_2016_5479_MOESM2_ESM.doc (100 kb)
Results of hydrogeological mapping in February 2011.
12665_2016_5479_MOESM3_ESM.doc (104 kb)
Results of hydrogeological mapping in August 2011.
12665_2016_5479_MOESM4_ESM.png (565 kb)
Results of hydrogeological mapping in August 2010.
12665_2016_5479_MOESM5_ESM.png (567 kb)
Results of hydrogeological mapping in February 2011.
12665_2016_5479_MOESM6_ESM.png (569 kb)
Results of hydrogeological mapping in August 2011.


  1. Acworth RI, Rau GC, McCallum AM, Andersen MS, Cuthbert MO (2015) Understanding connected surface-water/groundwater systems using Fourier analysis of daily and sub-daily head fluctuations. Hydrogeol J 23:143–159. doi: 10.1007/s10040-014-1182-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anibas C, Verbeiren B, Buis K, Chormanski J, De Doncker L, Okruszko T, Meire P, Batelaan O (2012) A hierarchical approach on groundwater-surface water interaction in wetlands along the upper Biebrza River, Poland. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 16:2329–2346. doi: 10.5194/hess-16-2329-2012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bat M (2007) Hydrological investigation in the area of Bohinj. Dela 28:165–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bayani Cardenas M (2008) The effect of river bed morphology on flow and timescales of surface water—groundwater exchange across pointbars. J Hydrol 362:134–141. doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2008.08.018 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brenčič M, Vreča P (2013) Influence of snow thawing regime changes on the outflow from karstic aquifer. Geophys Res Abstr 15:9156Google Scholar
  6. Buser S (1986) Basic geological map of SFRJ 1:100,000. Guidebook of sheets Tolmin and Videm (Udine): L 33–63, 33–64. Zvezni geološki zavod, Beograd (in Slovenian)Google Scholar
  7. Conant B (2004) Delineating and quantifying ground water discharge zones using streambed temperatures. Ground Water 42:243–257. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2004.tb02671.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dahl M, Nilsson B, Langhoff JH, Refsgaard JC (2007) Review of classification systems and new multi-scale typology of groundwater—surface water interaction. J Hydrol 344:1–16. doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2007.06.027 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dreybrodt W (1988) Processes in karst systems; physics, chemistry, and geology. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dujardin J, Anibas C, Bronders J, Jamin P, Hamonts K, Dejonghe W, Brouère S, Batelaan O (2014) Combining flux estimation techniques to improve characterization of groundwater-surface-water interaction in the Zenne River, Belgium. Hydrogeol J 22:1657–1668. doi: 10.1007/s10040-014-1159-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gat JR (1996) Oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in the hydrologic cycle. Annu Rev Earth Pl Sci 24:225–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gat JR (2010) Isotope hydrology—a study of the water cycle. Imperial College Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Hayashi M, Rosenberry DO (2002) Effects of ground water exchange on the hydrology and ecology of surface water. Ground Water 40:309–316. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2002.tb02659.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hoehn E, Scholtis A (2011) Exchange between a river and groundwater, assessed with hydrochemical data. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 15:983–988. doi: 10.5194/hess-15-983-2011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kalbus E, Reinstorf F, Schirmer M (2006) Measuring methods for groundwater—surface water interactions: a review. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 10:873–887. doi: 10.5194/hess-10-873-2006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kalbus E, Schmidt C, Molson JW, Reinstorf F, Schirmer M (2009) Influence of aquifer and streambed heterogeneity on the distribution of groundwater discharge. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 13:69–77. doi: 10.5194/hess-13-69-2009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mlinar C (1994) Jama za slapom Savica—continuation of scuba diving investigations. Naše jame 36:99–101 (in Slovenian) Google Scholar
  18. Molina-Giraldo N, Bayer P, Blum P, Cirpka OA (2011) Propagation of seasonal temperature signals into an aquifer upon bank infiltration. Ground Water 49:491–502. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2010.00745.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pruneda EB, Barber ME, Allen DM, Wu JQ (2010) Use of stream response functions to determine impacts of replacing surface-water use with groundwater withdrawals. Hydrogeol J 18:1077–1092. doi: 10.1007/s10040-010-0591-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. R Development Core Team (2015) A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  21. Ramovš A (1983) Waterfalls in Slovenia. Slovenska Matica, Ljubljana (in Slovenian) Google Scholar
  22. Schilling KE, Zhang Y-K (2011) Temporal scaling of groundwater level fluctuations near a stream. Ground Water 50:59–67. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2011.00804.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Schürch M, Kozel R, Jemelin L (2007) Hydrogeological mapping in Switzerland. Hydrogeol J 15:799–808. doi: 10.1007/s10040-006-0136-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Skeffington RA, Halliday SJ, Wade AJ, Bowes MJ, Loewenthal M (2015) Using high-frequency water quality data to assess sampling strategies for the EU water framework directive. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 19:2491–2504. doi: 10.5194/hess-19-2491-2015 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Skoberne P (1988) Hundred natural wanders of Slovenia. Prešernova družba, Ljubljana (in Slovenian) Google Scholar
  26. Šmuc A, Rožič B (2010) The jurassic Prehodavci formation of the Julian Alps: easternmost outcrops of Rosso Ammonitico in the Southern Alps (NW Slovenia). Swiss J Geosci 103:241–255. doi: 10.1007/s00015-010-0015-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sophocleous M (2002) Interactions between groundwater and surface water: the state of the science. Hydrogeol J 10:348. doi: 10.1007/s10040-002-0204-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Struckmeier W, Margat J (1995) Hydrogeological maps: a guide and a standard legend. Heise, HannoverGoogle Scholar
  29. Trišič N, Bat M, Polajnar J, Pristov J (1997) Water balance investigations in the Bohinj region. In: Kranjc A (ed) Tracer hydrology. p 295–298Google Scholar
  30. Urbanc J, Brancelj A (1999) Tracing experiment in lake Jezero v Ledvici, valley Triglavska jezera. Geologija 42:207–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Urbanc J, Brancelj A (2000) Karst groundwater connections in the Valley of the seven Triglav lakes. Acta Carsologica 29:47–54Google Scholar
  32. Vreča P, Brenčič B, Sinjur I, Vertačnik G, Volk M, Ortar J, Torkar A, Stibilj V, Pavšek M (2013) Isotopic composition of snow and precipitation on Julian Alps and Karavanke mountains. Raziskave s področja geofizike in geodezije—zbornik predavanj. pp 17–25 (in Slovenian) Google Scholar
  33. Wand MB (2013) KernSmooth: functions for kernel smoothing for Wand & Jones (1995). R package version 2. 23–10Google Scholar
  34. Wand MB, Jones MC (1995) Kernel smoothing. Chapman & Hall/CRC, Boca RatonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Winter TC (1999) Relation of streams, lakes, and wetlands to groundwater flow systems. Hydrogeol J 7:28–45. doi: 10.1007/s100400050178 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Woessner WW (2000) Stream and fluvial plain ground water interactions: rescaling hydrogeologic thought. Ground Water 38:423–429. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2000.tb00228.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Yang L, Song X, Zhang Y, Han D, Zhang B, Long D (2012) Characterizing interactions between surface water and groundwater in the Jialu River basin using major ion chemistry and stable isotopes. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 16:4265–4277. doi: 10.5194/hess-16-4265-2012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zaltsberg E (2013) Development of regional hydrogeological mapping in Russia. Hydrogeol J 21:525–528. doi: 10.1007/s10040-012-0946-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geology, NTFUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia
  2. 2.Geological Survey of SloveniaLjubljanaSlovenia
  3. 3.Department of Environmental SciencesJožef Stefan InstituteLjubljanaSlovenia

Personalised recommendations