Join Our Team

We're seeking a Development Associate to play an important role in Upstate Forever's community relations and fundraising initiatives. Please apply by April 30.

Read More +

The Water Log: Riparian Buffers in Greenville County

September 11th, 2022
By Erika Hollis

As the summer comes to a close, UF’s Clean Water team has a lot to celebrate. This summer has been full of great outreach events that reintroduced us to our amazing members and local citizens and reminded us why we love the work we do. Thank all of you who we have seen in person and those who support us by reading this newsletter.

With these great successes behind us, our team wants to remind our readers that your voices can help influence the state of local water quality and policy in the coming months. Read on to learn more about why riparian buffers are important and the need for strengthening county-wide riparian buffer requirements in Greenville County.

Best wishes,  



Erika Hollis
Clean Water Director
Upstate Forever

Photo by Mac Stone

Riparian Buffers

A riparian buffer is a strip of vegetation along a stream, river, lake, or pond. Riparian buffers protect water quality by capturing and filtering pollutants before they are washed off land surfaces and carried into local waterways. As development increases in a watershed, more land is converted from its natural state to a type of impervious surface that water cannot filter through. Stormwater running off impervious surfaces can carry pollutants like litter, fertilizers, pesticides, and pet waste discharging into the nearest river or stream. Buffers help slow down and filter that runoff while also providing important wildlife habitat, aesthetic beauty, flood protection and more.  

A local study by the Reedy River Water Quality Group (RRWQG) shows that the benefits associated with increased riparian buffers – including water quality, flood protection, tax revenue, and recreation – far exceed the costs.  

In fact, riparian buffers are the most cost-effective and fiscally responsible way to protect Greenville County’s rivers and streams. Fiscally speaking, benefits in this study estimated $7.5M and included water quality, property value, flood protection, tax revenue, and recreation.  

Additionally, according to a study by the Trust for Public Land, every $1 spent on land protection saves $27 on water treatment costs, because it keeps our waters clean, naturally, without the need for costly infrastructure upgrades. To read more about how development impacts water quality, click HERE.

As our region continues to rapidly grow, it is critical that Greenville County has sufficient riparian buffer requirements in place to help ensure our water quality is protected for current and future generations.

Community Benefits of Riparian Buffers

Scientific research clearly demonstrates that riparian buffers are the most cost-effective way to reduce storm water runoff while also providing tremendous economic, ecological, and other benefits such as:  

  • protect the quality of the water we drink;  
  • filter pollutants carried by surface water runoff;  
  • stabilize stream banks and minimize erosion;  
  • decrease the frequency and intensity of flooding and low stream flows;  
  • prevent sedimentation of waterways;  
  • protect aquatic life by providing shade to streams thereby moderating in-stream temperatures;  
  • provide food and habitat for wildlife; and  
  • replenish groundwater and protect associated wetlands. 

Greenville County’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO)

The UDO for Greenville County is a planning effort that will combine the County’s Zoning Ordinance and Land Development Regulations as well as other ordinances and documents for Greenville County into a single document. It will do this by using the County’s new Comprehensive Plan, Plan Greenville County, as a guide. The result of this document is intended to be a set of more responsive, creative, and forward-thinking zoning and land development standards for a diverse and growing county.  

The Greenville County UDO that is being developed has three main components:  

  • Zoning: These regulations will guide what types of development and at what densities developers can pursue in the zoned portions of the county. Only about 40% of the county’s 785 square miles are zoned.  
  • Land Use: These regulations cover a wide range of requirements developers must follow for both residential and commercial projects in areas like drainage, how water, sewer and other utilities are routed, and how street access is handled, to name a few. These regulations apply to both zoned and unzoned areas of the county.  
  • Governance: These regulations spell out the county’s authority and how the UDO will be administered, and its provisions enforced. 

What You Can do to Help

On August 23rd UF had the privilege of hosting Advocacy & Ales: A post-card writing happy hour. Our Clean Water, State Policy, and Land Planning & Policy staff discussed several key issues impacting land and water conservation and sustainable growth in the Upstate.  

At this event, we gave citizens the opportunity to write to elected officials and local agencies asking them to strengthen riparian buffer regulations in the UDO, support funding for the SC State Water Plan, and more. In total, we hosted 62 participants who wrote 104 postcards!

If you couldn’t attend this event and would like to write to your elected official about the UDO and riparian buffer requirements just use the following steps:  

  1. Search for your Greenville County Representative
  2. Write your letter explaining why strengthening riparian buffer ordinances matters to you
  3. Address and mail to your county council representative

Until next time

Thanks for joining us for The Water Log, Upstate Forever's periodic newsletter dedicated to clean water issues and advocacy!

If you would like to receive The Water Log in your inbox or know someone who might like to receive this newsletter as an email, please send them to this link to sign up:

Have clean water questions or comments? Contact me at

Error Message