Sediment is the number one source of pollution in North Carolina. Sediment covers fine gravel beds that act as aquatic nurseries for insects and fish. Other pollutants bond with sediment, keeping those pollutants in the creeks and streams.
The most effective means of reducing sediment in creeks and streams is to have and maintain a healthy riparian or vegetated buffer.
A riparian or vegetated buffer is a vegetated area of land along the stream bank. A vigorous buffer zone is made up of native grasses, flowers, trees, and shrubs and is an important feature of healthy streams and creeks. Buffers serve many important functions for a healthy stream including:
- Filtering out chemical pollutants and litter
- Improving overall water quality
- Keeping sediment out of the stream
- Providing valuable habitat for wildlife
- Reducing stream bank erosion
- Slowing floodwaters
All streams, no matter how small, benefit from a riparian/vegetated buffer. Small streams feed into bigger streams so the best way to protect a bigger stream is to start by protecting the smaller stream.
Stream Buffer Ordinance
The primary objective of stream buffer protection standards is to maintain land adjacent to streams in an undisturbed vegetative state in order to enhance and maintain water quality, protect stream channel wetlands, minimize stormwater runoff, reduce sedimentation and erosion, conserve plant and wildlife habitat and protect wildlife movement corridors. The standards contained in this section will further this objective (1) by regulating water temperature through shading of the stream bed, (2) by limiting sedimentation from streambank erosion and stormwater flow, and (3) by supporting aquatic life through the provision of organic debris such as leaves and twigs.