The Middle Loup division of the lower Platte River basin is an area of 650 square miles which includes the Middle Loup River valley from the confluence of the Middle and North Loup Rivers in Howard County, Nebr., to the site of the diversion dam that the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation proposes to construct in Blaine County near Milburn, Nebr. It also includes land in Howard and Sherman Counties designated by the Bureau of Reclamation as the Farwell unit. Irrigable land in this division is present on both sides of the Middle Loup River and along its tributaries. Most of the Middle Loup River valley is already irrigated by the Middle Loup Public Power and Irrigation District, which is strictly an irrigation enterprise. The uplands are not irrigated.
Loess, dune sand, gravel, silt, and clay of Pleistocene or Recent age are exposed in the report area. These unconsolidated sediments rest on bedrock consisting of alternating layers of shale, mudstone, sandstone, and limestone, which are essentially fiat lying or slightly warped. The Ogallala formation, of Tertiary (Pliocene) age, immediately underlies the Pleistocene sediments and rests on the Pierre shale of Cretaceous age. Belts of alluvium occupy the Middle Loup River valley and the valleys of the principal streams in the area. The soils, dune sand, and terrace deposits are the most recent deposits.
The Ogallala formation is water bearing and is the source of supply for some domestic and livestock wells. The saturated part of the sand and gravel formations of Pleistocene age, which yields water freely to wells, is the most important aquifer in the Middle Loup division. The water generally is under water-table conditions. The yields of properly constructed wells range from a few gallons per minute (gpm) to as much as 1,800 gpm. Some wells tap water in both the sand and gravel of Pleistocene age and in the underlying Ogallala formation. No wells are known to penetrate into formations older than the Ogallala.
Fluctuations of the water table indicate changes in the amount of ground water stored in the water-bearing formations. The principal factors controlling the rise of the water table are the amount of precipitation within the area, the quantity of water coming into the area as underflow from the west and northwest, seepage from the Middle Loup River at times when the water surface in the river is higher than the adjoining water table, and the infiltration of irrigation water not utilized by vegetation or lost by runoff or evaporation. The principal factors controlling the decline of the water table are the discharge as effluent seepage into the Middle Loup River and its tributaries, the amount of water pumped from wells, evapotranspiration losses, and the amount of water leaving the area as underflow.
Periodic water-level measurements were made in a total of 241 observation wells during the period 1948-50. Hydrographs of three observation wells having a longer period of record (1934-50) indicate that the water table rose slightly from 1934 until 1950 and that it remained nearly constant during the 1950 water year.
The configuration of the water table in the Middle Loup division shows that, except north and northwest of Sargent, the Middle Loup River is an effluent, or gaining, stream throughout its entire length in this area. Thus any rise or fall in the ground-water level will increase or decrease the discharge of the river. The river recharges the ground- water reservoir only during periods when it is at flood stage. The depth to the water table from the land surface is governed largely by irregularities in topography. The depth to water is less than 10 feet near the river and increases to as much as 60 feet near the valley margins and the bordering intermediate slopes. In the Far- well unit the depth to water is more than 100 feet and in some parts more than 150 feet. Ground water pumped from wells is the source of supply for the principal municipalities in th