Minnesota's Buffer Law requires perennial vegetative buffers of up to 50 feet along lakes, rivers, and streams and buffers of 16.5 feet along ditches. These buffers help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment. The deadline for implementation for buffers on public waters was November 1, 2017. The deadline for public ditches was November 1, 2018. The law provides flexibility for landowners to install alternative practices with equivalent water quality benefits that are based on the Natural Resources Conservation Service Field Office Technical Guide.
As of July 2019, approximately 98% of parcels adjacent to Minnesota waters are compliant with the Buffer Law. Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) are reporting encouraging progress in their work with landowners around the state. View the buffer maps for a visual representation of the Minnesota Buffer Law.
Please contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office for more information about buffers and local requirements.
What is a Buffer?
A buffer, also known as a riparian filter strip, is vegetated land adjacent to a stream, river, lake or wetland. Buffers help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment, and are an important conservation practice for helping keep water clean. Studies by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency show that buffers are critical to protecting and restoring water quality and healthy aquatic life, natural stream functions and aquatic habitat due to their immediate proximity to the water.
Buffers Improve Water Quality Article - MPCA
In 2015 Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) published an study on summarizing research done on different stream systems across the state. The article includes four examples, two from relatively channelized streams and two from streams that have not been significantly altered, along with supporting information. Click here to read the article or open the document below.