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Water Quality Buffers

Buffers are strips of trees, plants and other vegetation. Buffers are also mandatory "no build" zones along local creeks and lakes.  The buffer provides a natural boundary between development and our local waterways.

What buffers do:

  • Decrease erosion of stream banks and shorelines
  • Reduce some flood risks by storing excess storm water runoff
  • Moderate stream temperatures and sunlight, keeping fish and other aquatic life healthy
  • Provide places for wildlife to build nests and find food
 Buffer = Filter & Sponge

It is illegal to put a structure in a buffer or do any type of construction.  Buffer restrictions even apply to septic systems, swimming pools, hard-surface pathways, and grading the soil.  Local buffer ordinances also limit or ban mowing, cutting and removing plants in buffer areas.  

Rules about buffers can be complicated. Requirements for water quality buffers are included in three local ordinances:

Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM)

Post Construction Controls

Water Supply Watersheds

Also, Goose Creek Buffers apply in sections of Mint Hill. These fall under state regulations.

The width of a water quality buffer and the activities that are allowed in that buffer can vary, depending on which ordinance applies. If more than one buffer ordinance applies, the ordinance that is most restrictive is the one that must be followed.

Effective buffers have:

  • A healthy, undisturbed cover of vegetation
  • Native plants that are well-adapted to the local climate, pests and disease
  • A tree canopy that shades surface water and moderates water temperatures
  • A dense root mass for reducing soil erosion
  • Little need for maintenance as the buffer mimics natural conditions
  • No buildings; no construction; no asphalt, concrete, brick surfaces; and no fill dirt

Use the web to find out if your property has mandatory water quality buffers

Water Quality Buffer Implementation Guidelines

Application for a Water Quality Buffer Disturbance
Click on above link and save the form to your computer. Fill out the application form, then submit to:
     Rusty Rozzelle
     Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services
     Mecklenburg County Water Quality Program
     700 North Tryon Street
     Charlotte, NC  28202
     704-336-5449

 2012 presentation to Charlotte Regional Realtors about water quality buffers

See the Water Quality Buffer mailer

To ask Storm Water Services staff about water quality buffers, contact David Caldwell at 704-336-5452.

For questions about septic systems in water quality buffers, contact Lisa Corbitt at 704-336-5789.