Riparian Buffers Help Improve Water Quality

An example of a well-vegetated riparian buffer zone. 

If you do not have a stream running through or along your property, you may be unfamiliar with the term “riparian buffer.” Simply put, a riparian area is the stretch of land along a streambank.  A riparian buffer zone refers to this area when it is naturally vegetated with trees and shrubs. A riparian buffer is arguably the most essential and underrated tool to ensuring the health of our streams, improving water quality, and reducing flood damage and risk.

A well-established, appropriately vegetated riparian buffer is an environmental asset for a waterway. Tree and bush roots help to keep streambanks from eroding during rain events, thereby protecting adjacent property and making water cleaner by reducing sediment in the stream. Trees also create shade, which lowers water temperature and creates a more livable, inviting in-stream habitat for animals and fish. Riparian buffers intercept sediment, nutrients, pesticides, trash and other materials that flow to our streams during rain events.

If you live along a stream, consider this article a call to action to preserve or improve the riparian buffer on your property. Most communities, including Fairview Park and Rocky River, have riparian setback ordinances in their zoning codes that prohibit building or paving within a certain distance of a streambank. While important, those setbacks are not enough.

It is just as important to make sure your riparian zone is vegetated. What you can do? Try planting a few trees. Autumn is a good time to plant. You can also help by not mowing up to the edge of the stream. Instead, let those grasses, bushes, and trees grow. It may not always be the most aesthetically pleasing setting, but it is a very simple, incredibly beneficial way for you to impact the environment.

Matthew Hrubey

Matthew Hrubey is a member of the Fairview Park Green Team, a volunteer group of residents striving for a more sustainable community. This article is part of a monthly column discussing sustainability topics relevant to our area.

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Volume 3, Issue 4, Posted 10:15 AM, 10.07.2015