Trees & Water Quality
Woodlands that immediately border water bodies like lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and wetlands are called riparian forests. Riparian forests provide many benefits for water resources. They are good buffers between water bodies and open land uses such as crops, pastures, and parking lots.
Woodlands remove excess nutrients, pollutants, and soil from rainwater runoff and snow melt. Trees also reduce flooding by absorbing water directly; by improving soil structure, which increases the amount of water they soak up; and by simply slowing the movement of flood waters. Riparian forests also shade rivers and streams, which keeps water temperatures cool for aquatic plants and animals.
When riparian forests are cleared or divided, water quality often decreases and the frequency and intensity of flood events can increase. The recommended width of a riparian buffer can be anywhere from 75 ft. to 300 ft. on each side of a river, depending upon soil types, slope, and other values (e.g., scenic or ecological).