Assessments of the water quality benefit provided by an alternative riparian water quality practice(s) for compliance with the water resources riparian protection requirements of Minn. Stat. §103F.48 must be applied to each parcel and must:

Achieve the required water quality benefit via: (a) documentation of the assessment method used; (b) a map or diagram of the practices; and (c) documentation that the water quality protection is comparable to a buffer for the water resource it abuts

Water quality protection comparable to a buffer means that the alternative practice(s) proposed or implemented:

  1. treats all water running off of a parcel which would otherwise be treated by a Minn. Stat. §103F.48 prescribed buffer prior to entering a waterbody identified on the Buffer Protection Map.
  2. demonstrates treatment or protections from erosion and runoff pollution, including suspended solids, sediment and sediment associated constituents at least equivalent to that which the buffer would provide; and
  3. considers the stability of soils, shores and banks.


Minn. Stat. §103F.48, the Buffer Law, includes the following purposes:

  1. protect state water resources from erosion and runoff pollution;
  2. stabilize soils, shores, and banks; and
  3. protect or provide riparian corridors

The Buffer Law allows use of alternative practices approved by the BWSR or soil and water conservation districts (SWCD) on agricultural lands which provide comparable water quality benefit to that of a buffer as provided below:

(b) A landowner owning property adjacent to a water body identified in a buffer protection map and whose property is used for cultivation farming may meet the requirements under paragraph (a) by adopting an alternative riparian water quality practice, or combination of structural, vegetative, and management practices, based on the Natural Resources Conservation Service Field Office Technical Guide, common alternative practices adopted and published by the board, or other practices approved by the board, or practices based on local conditions approved by the local soil and water conservation district that are consistent with the Field Office Technical Guide, that provide water quality protection comparable to the buffer protection for the water body that the property abuts. Included in these practices are retention ponds and alternative measures that prevent overland flow to the water resource.

A buffer, as described in the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Field Office Technical Guide, provides treatment along the entire frontage of a water body where overland flows move towards the water body. Buffers may also provide a surface water protection setback for application of pesticides and crop nutrients based on specific product label best management practices. In addition, a buffer’s established root structure can provide shore and bank soil stability.

Program Need

  1. Local governments and landowners need a consistent basis for determining “comparable water quality benefit” including the scale at which these benefits will be assessed.
  2. Landowners need a process for consideration of proposed/implemented alternative practice(s) to be validated by the SWCD per Minn. Stat. §103F.48, subd. 3(d).
  3. SWCDs and local governments need to validate the sufficiency of the alternative practices should corrective actions be needed.

Statutory Basis