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NEMO Nevada (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials)

Why protect riparian buffers?

The Truckee River at Mayberry Park has clear water and lots of vegetation, and is a popular site for recreationists.

The Truckee River at Mayberry Park has clear water
and lots of vegetation, and is a popular site for
recreationists.

Riparian buffers reduce costs by lessening the impacts of flowing water, flooding and channel movement. It's natural for rivers and streams to move back and forth across flat valleys, constantly changing the locations of the channels. Buffers help separate houses and other buildings from the land that river channels will eventually move through. This lowers the cost of inevitable, natural riverbank erosion, which might occur more rapidly if there was no buffer in place.

Similarly, buffers protect the river and its bountiful riparian habitats from the effects of intensive land uses. Sediment from development or agricultural soil erosion has a place to settle out. Vegetation growing in the buffer slows the water, filters the sediment, takes up nutrients, allows water to soak in and keeps river water cleaner. The buffer provides open space, wildlife habitat, and space for storing floodwaters.

Vegetated buffers are most important where valleys are flat and flood-prone, where the forces of flowing water can cause erosion, or where the adjacent land uses create pollution in the form of sediment.

Next: How do buffers help protect communities?