or protective areas, are important tools that help protect and improve
the condition of our waterways. They are often not effective alone, but
can be an important part of an overall stormwater management plan. Municipalities
may consider adoption of an ordinance that requires creation or maintenance
of buffers along streams whether in urban or rural areas. New and existing
buffer ordinances should be reviewed for conformance with the minimum
standards outlined in NR 151 and should ensure appropriate enforcement
of the regulation.
An aquatic or riparian buffer is an area along a waterway or waterbody where development is prohibited or limited. (1) This area helps reduce the potential for pollutants such as sediments and nutrients from reaching the waterway. A forested buffer along a streambed also helps promote bank stability and helps control water temperatures. (2)
It is important to note that a buffer alone cannot treat all stormwater generated by a watershed. Their effectiveness is dependent on their width, type of vegetation, and pollutant load in the stormwater runoff. In the past, establishment of buffer widths had been site specific.
the WDNR has developed new regulations for minimum buffer requirements
--- 75 feet for wetlands and streams in areas of
special natural resource interest (high quality wetlands, and wetlands
that are home to endangered species – defined in NR 103.04);
Buffers tend to be more effective in improving the quality of stormwater runoff from rural areas than urban areas. This is primarily due to the difference in the way stormwater runs off the ground surface in the two areas. Runoff from urban areas quickly concentrates into shallow channels because sheet flow conditions cannot be maintained for much more than 75 feet over impervious surfaces. Rural areas can maintain sheet flow between 150 and 300 feet before changing to concentrated flow, allowing the buffer to be more effective. This slower flow allows buffers in rural areas to be more effective. (4)
Buffer System -- Back to Top
The purpose for each zone is different and therefore they are comprised of different vegetation and have different widths. According to the CWP, the minimum width for a stream buffer is recommended as 100 feet to provide adequate protection (4).
Considerations -- Back to Top
In the case where there is a loss of development land, communities may provide density bonuses. These development bonuses are also utilized for open space protection and setbacks requirements. Efficient land use decisions during the land-use planning process and tools such as density bonuses can minimize conflicts between developable land and buffer requirements.
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This page was created on March 26, 2003.