The effects of irrigation canals and the North Platte River on ground-water movement and quality in an irrigated alluvial valley, western Nebraska, were evaluated using environmental tracers. The results indicated that most of the ground water in the alluvium was derived from the North Platte River and generally was less than 30 years old. Ground-water-recharge rates varied substantially from about 0.6 to 9 feet per year with the larger recharge rates reflecting localized canal seepage.
Younger water had higher nitrate concentrations than older water. Increases in nitrate concentrations in recharging ground water over time may be associated with an increase in nitrogen fertilizer use over time. Denitrification was limited in the ground water in the alluvium.
Uranium concentrations in ground water resulted from dissolution of volcanic ash or other sediments in the underlying bedrock or incorporated in the alluvium. High uranium concentrations in the North Platte River during the winter months were a result of the addition of uranium-rich water from local tributaries and seepage of uranium-rich ground water.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Use of Environmental Tracers and Isotopes to Evaluate Sources of Water, Nitrate, and Uranium in an Irrigated Alluvial Valley, Nebraska