Stream and lake buffers are vegetated areas or strips of land adjacent to water bodies such as streams and lakes. They generally contain a mix of trees, bushes, grasses, and other vegetation and provide a variety of benefits related to protecting water quality. Stream and lake Buffers are also “no build zones” when local and state buffer regulations apply.
Stream and lake buffers are essential for protecting water quality of streams and lakes and important to our community for the following functions they provide:
- Protect water quality by filtering pollutants in stormwater runoff;
- Allow water to soak into the ground and recharge groundwater supplies;
- Provide storage for floodwaters;
- Allow channels to meander naturally;
- Provide suitable habitats for wildlife;
- Provide shade to reduce water temperatures; and
- Provide soil stability through root mass.
See our Video - Benefits of Vegetated Buffers and Stabilization
There are four different types of stream and lake buffers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg as required by various ordinances adopted by the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the six towns between 1993 and 2008. Ordinance requirements differ significantly based on the buffer type and the jurisdiction where the buffer is located. In all situations where two buffer types apply to the same stream segment, the buffer that is more protective of water quality always applies. The following provides a summary of the four different buffer types in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
Water Supply Watershed Buffers
Surface Water Improvement & Management (S.W.I.M.) Buffers
Goose Creek and Six Mile Creek Buffers
For a summary of the differences between these types of buffers please see Overview of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Stream and Lake Buffer Requirements.
See POLARIS Instructions for Stream and Lake Buffers to determine if your property has a water quality buffer.
See Determine Stream and Lake Buffer Requirements for a Specific Parcel for the following information:
- Requirements for a specific parcel
- Disturbances allowed and NOT allowed under the law
- Mitigation of disturbances
For more information about the specific regulations that require stream and lake buffers, see Regulations.
Questions about Stream and Lake Buffers?
Mecklenburg County Water Quality Program Manager
City of Charlotte Senior Engineering Project Manager