Riparian Buffers

Purpose of Riparian Buffers
Riparian buffers are a significant contributor to good water quality. 
  • They help filter the stormwater that flows from roads, roofs, and lawns before it reaches the streams.
  • They remove many pollutants such as oil from roads, sediment, and nutrients from over-fertilized lawns.
  • Riparian vegetation also slows floodwaters, trapping sediments to build stream banks and protect downstream property. 
  • By slowing down floodwaters and stormwater runoff, the riparian vegetation allows water to soak into the ground and recharge groundwater. 
Aerial shot of green land, trees, and a band of water and sediment running between the trees


The Town of Apex has riparian buffer requirements in place to protect the quality of our streams. 
  • A 100-foot buffer is required on any stream that flows year-round (perennial stream) and a 50-foot buffer on any intermittent stream. The buffer lengths are measured from the top of the stream bank.
  • The Town also requires diffuse (non-concentrated) flow of runoff prior to entering the buffer.
The Town Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) lists the buffer zones and allowable uses within each zone.

Designations & Mitigation

Persons who wish to undertake uses designated as “allowable” or “allowable with mitigation” in the Table of Uses 6.1.11(G)(1), shall submit a request for a No Practical Alternatives (PDF) determination to the Town. If mitigation is required, a Buffer Impact Justification and Mitigation (PDF) form must also be completed and submitted.

Watershed Protection Overlay District Map

The Watershed Protection Overlay District Map (PDF) illustrates the buffered streams in Apex. 
  • A shaded green buffer represents a 100-foot buffer on a perennial stream.
  • A blue shaded buffer represents a 50-foot buffer on an intermittent stream.
  • The Primary Watershed Protection District (red area) is land identified by the State as water supply watershed protected areas.
  • The Secondary Watershed Protection District (orange area) is all other land within Town of Apex corporate limits and ETJ.

Homeowner Information

If you are considering improvements to your property such as a deck, patio, shed, or pool, in addition to applying for appropriate building permits, consider whether you will be building in a riparian (stream) buffer. State and local regulations restrict clearing and building within 50 to 100 feet of streams. 

Within a riparian buffer, It is allowable to:
  • Prune vegetation
  • Remove dead trees
  • Remove nuisance vegetation such as poison ivy, vines, and bamboo 

Contact Information

Please contact Stormwater staff at (919) 249-3427 for more information about buffered streams or to request a buffer call determination on your property.  A Right of Entry form is required for all buffer call determinations.

Further Resources

For more information, check out our Watershed Protection Brochure (PDF).