Water margins

A water margin (or buffer strip) is a vegetated area near a stream which helps to protect a watercourse from the impact of adjacent activities. Buffer strips play an important role in protecting water quality and have become standard frontline protection for watercourses.

Buffer strips have been widely created, with a rolling programme to increase coverage year on year. We estimate that there are now over 300km in the Dee catchment. Most recently the EU LIFE Pearls in Peril project created over 45km of water margins in the middle catchment, including some 10m wide examples on the Tarland Burn (below).

Creating buffer strips by fencing of the riverbank is a well-established technique, but they are developing into more sophisticated water treatment systems. The James Hutton Instute is trialling new 'Intelligent' or 'BufferTech' water margins that intercept and treat the runoff from field drains and provide biomass from vegetation growth.

Water margins provide valuable protection from a wide range of impacts other than farming. We have pioneered their use to protect watercourses from the impact of development and this approach has been adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils.

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