Water: Polluted Runoff
You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.
Explore Model Ordinances
Effective buffer ordinances provide guidelines for buffer creation and maintenance and should require:
- buffer boundaries to be clearly marked on local planning maps
- maintenance language that restricts vegetation and soil disturbance
- tables that illustrate buffer width adjustment by percent slope and type of stream
- direction on allowable uses and public education
Each of the 10 sections of the model ordinance provides suggested language or technical guidance designed to create the most effective stream buffer zones possible. Much of the model is based on Baltimore County, Maryland's (PDF) (12 pp, 84K) regulations for the protection of water quality, streams, wetlands, and floodplains. In certain sections, additional features and language judged to enhance the protective measures and functions of the proposed stream buffer have been added.
When you see this symbol, it is time to make a decision or get more information.
Included on this site are sample stream buffer ordinances from various parts of the country:
- Language from Baltimore County, MD (PDF) (12 pp, 98K)
Includes specific language specifying the expansion of buffers for erodible soils and steep slopes.
- Rhode Island Coastal Zone Program (PDF) (11 pp, 47K)
An example of a buffer ordinance in a coastal region.
- Ordinance on Riparian Habitat Areas, Napa, CA (PDF) (2 pp, 17K)
A buffer ordinance for a region with few native trees.This ordinance focuses on the preservation of other native vegetation.
- Portland Metro Floodplain Preservation Ordinance (PDF) (4 pp, 22K)
Focuses on management of the floodway.
- Model Land Trust Agreement (Natural Lands Trust) (PDF) (11 pp, 41K)
An example of a land trust agreement. Such documents are often needed to ensure the long-term integrity of the buffer.
A strong buffer ordinance is only a first step to preserving stream buffers. In addition, communities will need an effective buffer program to manage buffers and enforce buffer regulations. During the construction phase, communities need to ensure that the clearing and grading permit is well integrated with the forest buffer application. After construction, programs that educate citizens about the importance of the buffer and how to manage the buffer can help preserve its integrity.