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NEMO Nevada (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials)

How do buffers help protect communities?

House on edge of river with one side of the house over the river bank edge.

Powerful floodwaters put homes and other buildings
built along rivers at risk, as shown in this photo from
Washington.

When buffers are preserved, they prevent inappropriate land uses from occurring too close to channels. Urban development near meandering channels causes problems, and sometimes the fixes to those problems cause new problems. Once development occurs close to the river, floods cause damage. People then build flood control levees, giving them a false sense of security, allowing more development to occur. At some point in the future, a larger flood causes the levees to fail, and more expensive damage occurs. This cycle of serial engineering eventually turns a living river into an expensive concrete canal, such as the Los Angeles River. Water quality and habitat values are lost along with quality of life for residents.

Next: How wide should a buffer be?