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As a result of an increase in saline seep occurrence in Montana, a study was begun in 1974 to determine the hydrogeology of saline seeps in the Hailstone basin. The aquifer is composed of colluvium of Holocene age. The impermeable Cretaceous Niobrara Formation underlies the saturated zone basinwide. The ground-water system is shallow, unconfined, and locally recharged. Ground-water levels and size of the saline seeps respond rapidly to precipitation in the basin. The appearance and growth of saline seeps are related to precipitation patterns; the agricultural practice of summer follow; topography; the presence of a shallow, unconfined, and locally recharged ground-water system; and a soluble salt source. Continuous cropping could reduce the amount of water percolating beneath local recharge areas, and thus minimize the water available for seep formation and growth. The lateral variation in chemical quality of water from wells suggests a shallow flow system. The field specific conductance of 29 ground-water samples collected in 1976 ranged from 2,160 to 14,000 micromhos per centimeter and averaged 6,660 micromhos per centimeter. Water from saline seeps in the study area contains principally sodium, magnesium, calcium, and sulfate. Nitrate is present in the ground water in concentrations of as much as 855 milligrams per liter. The high nitrate concentrations are interpreted to originate primarily from oxidation of organic material once native sod is broken by cultivation. (USGS).
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USGS Numbered Series
Saline-seep development in the Hailstone Basin, northern Stillwater County, Montana