Buffers are Better
If you live along a creek, stream, shoreline or wetland, you are a “riparian property owner”.  Your recreation, planting and landscaping maintenance activities directly impact the water quality in your yard and surrounding communities.  A “buffer” is a strip of land that is adjacent to a water body.  When it is treated with care, it will provide immense benefits by protecting the water body (think of it as a water body “right-of-way”).  These buffers help to protect water quality by filtering pollutants, sediments and nutrients from runoff.

Buffer Bonuses:
  1. Buffers help stabilize streambanks and reduce erosion.  Roots hold the banks together while stems protect banks by deflecting the cutting action of waves, ice, boat wakes and runoff.
  2. They improve water quality by removing sediment, fertilizers, pesticides and other potential contaminants from runoff.
  3. Buffers can help deter geese!  (Geese are attracted to well-manicured lawns much more than taller native plants and grasses along a shoreline.)
  4. Buffers enhance fish and wildlife habitat.
  5. Buffers improve soil quality.
Building Your Buffer:
  • Know where your water goes.  Spend some time outside during a rainstorm and watch your property to see where the water flows.  The buffer will work best if the water spreads out and does not flow straight to the water body.  Regrade or use stones or landscape timbers to divert runoff to flatter areas where it can soak in.  If your land receives stormwater from the road, an engineer’s advice may be useful.
  • If nothing else: DO NOT fertilize your lawn within 25-30 feet of a water course.  Simply avoid the placement of fertilizer in this area can have a dramatic effect on the water quality and it will save you time and money!  Encourage your neighbors to do the same.
  • Make sure your project complies with appropriate permitting agencies, ordinances and regulations.
  • If possible, a width of 25-30 feet is recommended for your buffer area, however you may not have that much room to spare – even a 5-10 foot buffer will produce some benefits.
  • If you desire an access to your water body, create a curved path in lieu of a straight path which can direct runoff right to the water body.
  • Avoid pesticide use in the buffer zone.
By making a concerted effort to protect the water quality in your yard, you are helping protect the water quality of everyone that lives, works and plays downstream of you.

For additional information of buffers please visit the following USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Services Web-Sites:

Buffer Strips: Common Sense Conservation:  www.nrcs.usda.gov/features/buffers/
Selecting and Sizing Buffer Practices:  www.ftw.nrcs.usda.gov/tpham/buffer/akey.htm
Plants: www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/plants.html

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