One of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Adriatic coast, the city of Opatija, is facing a problem concerning seasonal drinking water shortages. The existing water resources are no longer sufficient, and attention is being given to alternative resources such as the underlying karstic aquifer and several coastal springs in the city itself. However, the water potential of the area still cannot be estimated due to the insufficient hydrological data. The goal of this research was to evaluate the use of thermal infrared (TIR) remote sensing as the source of valuable information that will improve our understanding of the groundwater discharge dynamics. Ten Landsat ETM+ (enhanced thematic mapper plus) and two Landsat TM (thematic mapper) images of the north Adriatic, recorded during 1999–2004 at the same time as the field discharge measurements, were used to derive sea surface temperature (SST) and to analyze freshwater outflows seen as the thermal anomaly in the TIR images. The approach is based on finding the functional relationship between the size of the freshwater thermal signatures and the measured discharge data, and to estimate the water potential of the underlying aquifer. It also involved analyzing the possible connection between the adjusted size of the spring’s thermal signatures and groundwater level fluctuations in the deeper karst hinterland. The proposed methodology resulted in realistic discharge estimates, as well as a good fit between thermal anomalies with measured discharges and the groundwater level. It should be emphasized that the results are site specific and based on a limited data set. However, they confirm that the proposed method can provide additional information on groundwater outflow dynamics and coastal springs’ freshwater quantification.
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