Wilson Bay Water Quality

Sturgeon City sits on the edge of Wilson Bay, along the New River. The New River is a 50-mile long river starting in northwestern Onslow County and flowing past Jacksonville and the marine corps base Camp Lejeune into Onslow Bay and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean. The New River is a tidal estuary, which is where a river meets the water from the ocean. The water in the bay is brackish, a mixture of salt and fresh water.

The City of Jacksonville's Stormwater/Water Quality department has been collecting water quality in Wilson Bay and the New River for over 20 years. This page is to provide information on the Water Quality of the bay and to help educate the public on the health of the New River and Wilson Bay. The table below shows the average water quality parameters for Wilson Bay.

So what does all of that mean?
  • Salinity: the measure of dissolved salts in the water. The ocean is around 35 ppt (parts per thousand). Freshwater is at 0 ppt.

  • Temperature: the temperature is how hot or cold the water is. This differs depending on the   seasons.

  • Dissolved Oxygen: the amount of gaseous oxygen dissolved in the water. Oxygen is absorbed from the atmosphere, water movement and photosynthesis of underwater plants. Dissolved oxygen levels are much higher in the winter as oxygen dissolves easier in colder water.

Why is the water brown?

The New River is what's known as a blackwater river. Blackwater rivers are slow-moving channels that move through heavily forested areas. As leaves and other vegetation decay along and in the channels, tannin's leach out into the water staining it a dark brown. This is the same process that people use to make tea!

What affect did the hurricane have?

Hurricane Florence hit our area on September 12, 2018. It dropped over 30 inches of rain in parts of Onslow County. This along with runoff and spills along the river had a drastic impact on the water quality by lowering the amount of oxygen in the water as well as the salinity. The chart below depicts the parameters before, after (monthly average) and currently in Wilson Bay.

Data is collected by a YSI every 15 minutes and the weekly averages are placed in this table.

North Carolina King Tides Project

King tides is a term used to describe the highest-high and the lowest-low tide events of the year. They occur when the moon is closest to the earth and it is either a full or new moon. These events must happen together to produce a king tide. They happen regularly and are very predictable. They help to show us water-level projections for the future.

Measurements are taken from a floating dowel gauge that measures the depth of the water relative to NAVD88. NAVD88 for the gauge at Sturgeon City is at 16.39 inches. NAV88 stands for North American Vertical Datum of 1988 and simply means the fixed height of the primary tide gauge benchmark.

To learn more about the NC King Tides Project please click here.

King Tides Gauge.jpg