Yet in prehistoric times people used natural hot springs to bathes and warming-up their bodies, heating and cooking food as well as healing wounds and rest. Hot springs became massively popular among Etruscans. They were capturing the springs, building swimming pools equiped with recreation and rest facilities. In ancient Rome thermal waters were used on a ground scale.
Thermal waters, also called "geothermal" are underground mineral or plain waters of at least 20oC temperature at the outflow from natural springs to wells. In Poland the best conditions for thermal waters exploitation are in so called Podhale basin. This is thanks to geologic conditions, high temperature (up to 90C) at the outflow, poor mineralisation, high efficiency and good groundwater renewal and good terrain accessibility.
The history of geothermal energy under Tatra Mountains begins in 1884, when Ludwik Zejszner discovered at Jaszczurówka in Zakopane a spring with temperature of 20,4°C. In 1958, also in Jaszczurówka, with the percussion method a hole was drilled, in which, at the depth of 20 meters a raised water temperature was discovered, namely the temperature of 22,7°C. In 1963 thermal water of the temperature of 37°C was for the first time exploited from a borehole on Antałówka in Zakopane. Nowadays, on the terrain of Podhale basin are 14 active thermal water boreholes, in: Zakopane, Bańska Niżna, Małe Ciche, Białym Dunajec, Poronin, Witów, Bukowina Tatrzańska, Białka Tatrzańska and in the neighbourhood of Furmanów and in Chochołowska Valley.
At the beginning, the exploited thermal water was used in bathing pools. Crucial for the development of geothermal energy was a big hole Bańska IG 1 drilled in 1981, which was the base for the first Polish geothermal plant.
The overall efficiency of boreholes at the level is of 670 m3/h, the temperature of outflow water gains temperature of 86°C and the pressure on the casing head has value of 2,7MPa, the water mineralisation does not overcome 3 g/dm3. The water in the borehole Bańka PGP-1and Bańska IG-1 is of sulphade-chloride-sodium-calcium type. The thermal water is exploited without pomps and then directed to plate heat exchangers of a total power of 35MW. In those heat exchangers thermal water gives up the heat to the lattice water, which is present in independent circulation. The heated circulating water is transported in the transmission pipeline and the through the distributing net supplies Zakopane, Biały Dunajec, and Bańska Niżna. Cooled thermal water goes through the pipeline to the pumping plant and then flooded to the water-bearing horizon.
Thermal water is successfully exploited in heat engineering and in balneology and recreation. The circulating conditions and rock environment lithology influence the properties of thermal water. Precipitation water infiltrating in the Tatras range rocks migrate with the rate from a couple of to several meters a year to the North, following the direction of subsidence of water-bearing layers. Such rates of the underwater flow cause the diversification of the time of water contacting rock, and its consequence is a diversified amount of minerals in thermal water.
Last times, on the territory of Podhale one could observe a rapid development of Aquaparks and thermal swimming pools. The inhabitants and visitors of Podhale can bathe in Aquapark in Zakopane, Termy Podhalańskie in Szaflary and Terma Bukowina in Bukowina Tatrzańska, as well as thermal swimming pools on Polana Szymoszkowa in Zakopane and Terma Bania in Białka Tatrzańska. All the resorts offer geothermally heated water of healing properties and many attractions both for children and adults. They are a great completion of a tourist offer and a perfect alternative for mountain trips and are irreplaceable in the time of rain.