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NEMO Nevada (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials)

Riparian Buffers

Photo of Carson River at Lutheran Bridge.

A healthy riparian buffer has water-loving plants
like these willows.

What is a buffer?

A buffer is a transition zone between two very different land types or land uses. A riparian buffer located along the margins of a river, stream or other water body, separates human-focused land uses, such as agriculture or development, from the water body. Riparian vegetation thrives on the abundant water near the channel and provides habitat for wildlife. Lush riparian vegetation and open space help make buffers tough and effective.

Prior to settlement, cottonwood trees, willows or sedges thrived along flowing waters in the Great Basin. The vegetation protected banks from erosion and caused flows to slow down, allowing floodwaters to soak into the soil, recharge aquifers and reduce downstream floods. The vegetation also shades the water, helping to keep it cool. Well-vegetated channels remain narrow and clean, providing a variety of fish habitats, high-quality water and a place of stability and beauty.

Riparian buffers can often be identified by the presence of sedges, rushes, willows, alders and/or cottonwoods.

Riparian buffers can often be identified by the presence
of sedges, rushes, willows, alders and/or cottonwoods.