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Dinaric Karst Aquifer System

Groundwaters of the Dinaric Karst form some of the world's largest karst aquifer systems. The Dinaric region contains huge amounts of high quality groundwater. It is one of the major contributors of freshwater entering the Adriatic Sea.

dinaric karst aquifer system hydrogeological map

The Dinaric Karst Aquifer System extends from NE Italy through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro to Albania. Karst formations connected with the Dinaric carbonate chain outcrop also in Serbia, FYR Macedonia, and possibly in NW Greece.

Karst is a special type of geologic environment that is formed when soluble rocks, such as limestone and dolomite, are corroded and dissolved by percolating water. Karst hydrogeology is characterized by high fracture controlled permeability, almost total absence of surface water, high infiltration rates and rapid underground flows of groundwater. For the most part, this region is still pristine characterised by a variety of geo-morphological environments.

The dominant flow of the groundwaters contained in the Dinaric Karst is towards the Adriatic Sea, eventually through rivers (such as Neretva, Cetina and Trebisnjica) and through submarine springs that characterize the coastal areas of Eastern Adriatic. Further to the East, the Dinaric karst groundwaters drain mainly to the Sava River Basin.

The Dinaric region contains huge amounts of high quality groundwater that:

  • is essential for the sustainability of rich freshwater ecosystems and coastal habitats
  • supports hydropower production, agriculture, industry, and tourism, the last one especially along the coast
  • is the main source of drinking water in most of the countries of the area.


A full sized Global Environmental Fund (GEF) Project aims "to improve understanding of transboundary groundwater resources of the Dinaric region and to facilitate their equitable and sustainable utilisation, including the protection of unique karst groundwater dependent ecosystems". Read more...