The Stepping Back from the Water handbook is designed to assist municipalities, watershed groups, developers and landowners in Alberta’s settled region determine appropriate water body setbacks for development around our lakes, rivers and wetlands. It will also encourage new policies for achieving riparian environmental outcomes. The handbook will help users with the following:
1. Identifying riparian lands, and understanding key riparian area functions;
2. Understanding how setbacks can be applied to create effective riparian buffers;
3. Conserving and managing riparian land;
4. Managing erosion and pollutants associated with new development.
The Stepping Back from the Water document contains recommendations for development setbacks and riparian buffer management based on a review of the scientific literature, published monographs, and regulatory and planning documents from various jurisdictions in Canada and the USA. Buffer strip recommendations for water quality functions were made using only the scientific literature, whereas a variety of sources were used relative to other core riparian functions including flood water conveyance and storage, bank stability, and habitat. In these cases, existing policies and beneficial management practices supplemented the scientific literature and offered practical guidance.
The Stepping Back from the Water handbook also provides guidance on watershed-scale approaches for protecting water bodies, sensitive areas, wetlands, shorelines and water quality, recognizing that riparian buffer strips alone are unlikely to reduce runoff and nutrient loading into surface waters. The importance of working together, and using a broad suite of tools and approaches to manage human impact on our natural environment, cannot be overemphasized. Later sections and the report’s appendices contain information and links for land and water management beyond riparian areas.