Protecting Stream Buffers

The land bordering a stream affects its water quality. A vegetated buffer slows down stormwater runoff, filters pollutants, stabilizes stream banks, removes sediment, and removes nitrogen and phosphorous from surface flows and groundwater. In a forested buffer, tree roots remove nitrogen and the tree canopy moderates water temperature, which is critical to fish.

Because of the importance of stream buffers for the Chesapeake Bay's water quality, they are legally protected by Virginia law. Buffers within 100 feet of streams are designated as Resource Protection Areas, and are protected by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance.

Before disturbing a stream buffer, check the Fairfax County website to learn what's allowed, and what activities require approval.

Steps to Restore the Buffer