In this paper we propose a new motion estimator for image sequences depicting fluid flows. The proposed estimator is based on the Helmholtz decomposition of vector fields. This decomposition consists in representing the velocity field as a sum of a divergence free component and a vorticity free component. The objective is to provide a low-dimensional parametric representation of optical flows by depicting them as deformations generated by a reduced number of vortex and source particles. Both components are approximated using a discretization of the vorticity and divergence maps through regularized Dirac measures. The resulting so called irrotational and solenoidal fields consist of linear combinations of basis functions obtained through a convolution product of the Green kernel gradient and the vorticity map or the divergence map respectively. The coefficient values and the basis function parameters are obtained by minimization of a functional relying on an integrated version of mass conservation principle of fluid mechanics. Results are provided on synthetic examples and real world sequences.