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The thermal water springs of Sofia

Photo: BGNES

One of the causes for the ancient city of Sofia to emerge, except its crossroads location are the great number of mineral water springs. Many of them are in the very heart of the city. Thousands of years of history of the city are invariably associated with this natural wealth, which plays an important role in the formation of local habits and the economic progress of the city. "Serdica is my Rome" once Emperor Constantine the Great / 306-337 / said, turning the city for a long time in his residence. Today, just a small part of the opportunities this invaluable treasure of the Bulgarian capital city offers is used. The water is used predominantly by bottling companies for mineral water. Abandoned are most of the previous spas, the old buildings forgotten in ruins. Rather than contributing to the prosperity of the city, hot water flows from fountains into drains or remains hidden under the city. Hydrology Prof. Konstantin Sterev says that these hot water springs are what makes the city unique. For each thermal spring has a different mineral content. This allows for a wide practical use of the water springs. Content in the northern, southern, eastern and western parts of the Sofia Valley is completely different, and this diversity is a true wealth, says Konstantin Sterev and adds:

“The thermal water generated in the Sofia valley reaches some 500 liters per second. The lowest level of the temperature is 30-35 ° C, with some springs reaching up to 80-90 degrees. The quantity of heat of this water is estimated at 50 MW. From this thermal potential through natural springs or through drilling some 80 liters per second are extracted. Of those currently one fifth is used so there is a big gap between the potential of existing mineral waters in Sofia and their use. To reach and use the whole amount of 500 liters per second a number of projects must be implemented. These thermal waters have been identified, their location is known, but are not disclosed. Over the last 20 years there is no progress in this regard,” the professor says.

© Photo: BGNES

"Central Sofia Bath"

Some twenty years ago the citizens of Sofia used the water not only for drinking but also in several urban spas with advanced medical centers in them. Furthermore, these spas were built some hundred years ago and the buildings are of rich architectural value. The beautiful building of the central bath downtown Sofia is now being turned into a museum of the city but it has not opened its doors to visitors yet. Former centers of hygiene and relaxation, now not functioning, are those in Gorna Banya and Ovcha Kupel. The only functioning one is the mineral bath in the Sofia district of Pancherevo. Despite the fact a few companies are bottling mineral water not much progress in the utilization of this wealth in the capital is seen, says Professor Sterev. The plan for development of Sofia in the next 20 years prescribes the use of thermal waters in the future by establishing spas and centers with various social functions. In this respect, private enterprises and the municipality cooperate. Konstantin Sterev told us more:

“Part of the funds should go for research and development of pumping stations and transmission networks for water and heat. Another issue is the construction of the centers that are to utilize the thermal waters. And, of course, the development of the bottling industry should continue. Attention must be paid to waters that are for strict medical use, but are outside the focus of business.”

In terms of the variety of spas Sofia is unique prof. Shterev says. Of course, we should not forget the fact that Budapest also occurred due to the hot springs, but today they use a lot more than us. However, there is a significant difference. Budapest’s hydrothermal system is broad and strong, but the type of water is the same everywhere. In Sofia we have 9 different types of thermal waters. In this sense, Sofia is unique among the EU capital cities.

Guests and citizens of Sofia will continue to use the mineral drinking water from several official sources in the city. And stories about the healing properties of Sofia’s waters multiply.

English version: Alexander Markov

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