Drier weather conditions have left the Neuse River estuary on the saltier side.
Nathan Hall, research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, said the saltier-than-normal conditions are somewhat typical this time of year.
Low precipitation results in low river flow, and these past couple of weeks haven’t seen much rain, he said.
River flow this year is still being affected by last year’s particularly dry weather, which resulted in river flows in waters including the Neuse being down about 25% of where they should have been, Hall said.
“We just haven’t made it up,” he continued. “We’ve had some periods that have been relatively wet.”
River conditions are routinely checked through the Neuse River Estuary Modeling and Monitoring (ModMon) Project, a collaborative effort between the university and North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
The estuary is checked every other week between spring and fall and once a month during winter.
There are 11 sites running through the middle of the estuary that are monitored for a variety of conditions, including acidity, turbidity and a crude measure of the amount of phytoplankton in the water.
Hall said monitoring results also continue to indicate low levels of oxygen in the bottom water, a persistent problem during summer.
“Right now, there’s more oxygen in the bottom waters out there than is often the case,” he said.
And, though it is typical this time of year for oxygen levels to be low, that does not mean there’s not cause for concern. That’s because low oxygen is a product of too many nutrients making it into the river.