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What are SWIM buffers?
Buffers are "no build zones" along local creeks.

The Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) initiative established buffer zones along creeks in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the six Towns. No construction or development is allowed in the buffer zones. The SWIM buffer ordinance was adopted by the Charlotte City Council and by the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners in 1998.  The six Towns adopted SWIM ordinances in 1999 and 2000.

SWIM buffers:

  1. reduce some flood risks by absorbing excess storm water runoff
  2. act as natural filters to limit the amount of pollution reaching our creeks
  3. provide greenspace for trails and parks.
Lush buffers along Goose Creek
Lush buffers along Goose Creek in Mecklenburg County

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

The width of the required SWIM buffer varies depending on the town, city, or county that has jurisdiction over the land. 
Ordinances and requirements for SWIM buffers.

Buffers are only one part of the comprehensive SWIM initiative.  SWIM is an on-going, strategic, long-range effort that includes:

  • pollution reduction
  • erosion control
  • water quality monitoring
  • watershed planning
  • public information
  • stream restoration and enhancement projects. 

Mecklenburg County's SWIM Initiative

The S.W.I.M. Buffer Regulations for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are intended to apply to streams which are defined as a drainage feature on the land surface for conveying water (outside of a pipe) at the time the Ordinance went into effect (November 9, 1999 for Mecklenburg County and November 15, 1999 for Charlotte). Therefore, streams located in a pipe below the land surface at the time the Ordinance went into effect are not required to have a stream buffer. If a section of stream is piped after the effective date of the Ordinance the stream buffer is no longer required, however, mitigation is required for the piped section as specified in the Ordinance. This interpretation applies to Charlotte and Mecklenburg County only. If an interpretation is needed for streams in any of the Town jurisdictions, the planning/zoning officials for that Town must be contacted.

For more information on the SWIM Initiative contact:

Rusty Rozzelle
Mecklenburg County Water Quality Program Manager