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Riparian Protection Policies and Bylaws


What is it?

Riparian areas are the transitional zones found between rivers, streams, wetlands, and lake shores and the associated dry, upland habitat. Riparian areas are extremely important due to their role in soil conservation, pollution control, flood prevention, and biodiversity. They are sensitive to land use activities, such as impact from adjacent development or construction activities and ranching practices. To protect riparian areas and reduce impact from human activities, Riparian Policies and Bylaws are put in place to establish setbacks, and to manage and regulate land use activities that might impact these areas.

How can municipalities use it?

Municipalities can include riparian policies in the Municipal Development Plan to create a mandate to conserve and restore riparian areas, and to influence park management plans, area structure plans, and stormwater drainage plans. A municipality can use policies and bylaws to implement setbacks, prescribing  the minimum distances that land use activities should occur from a riparian area.

What are the advantages?

The advantages of Riparian Policies and Bylaws include:

  • Directs conservation and restoration of riparian areas, which offer many benefits such as biodiversity maintenance, flood and drought mitigation, and recreation opportunities

  • Can address riparian issues specific to the municipality

  • Provide an implementation mechanism for riparian management strategies

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. When developing Riparian Policies and Bylaws, a municipality should consider:

  • Policies and bylaws must align with other municipal regulations, as well as federal and provincial

  • Inventories and health assessments of riparian areas are needed to develop efficient policies

  • Monitoring will be required to ensure policies and bylaws are sufficiently protecting riparian areas and water quality

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

Riparian Policies and Bylaws help to maintain the natural infrastructure by ensuring riparian areas are not impacted by detrimental land use activities, and by allowing functions (such as biodiversity maintenance and erosion control) and benefits (such as flood mitigation and scenic views) to remain intact.


Stepping Back from the Water – A handbook for the best practices used to minimize impacts and risks associated with development near water bodies in Alberta.

Green Bylaws Toolkit: for conserving sensitive ecosystems and green infrastructure – This document is an important resource for understanding how municipalities and developers can safeguard the environment, from a regional to a site level. It clearly explains each tool, and provides case studies and examples of bylaws that are in use in British Columbia. This document describes and provides case studies of riparian areas regulations.

A wetlands and riparian areas conservation and management plan for Cochrane Alberta - The Town of Cochrane Strategic Plan states that the Town will investigate, monitor and implement environmental standards / codes of practice for wetland and watershed management. The document has been expanded to include riparian areas and is not restricted only to wetland enhancement but to all aspects of wetland and riparian area conservation and management.

AUMA Riparian Area Management - The AUMA’s resources include a section on riparian area management in their Water Management / Watershed Management section.

Protecting Riparian Areas: Creative Approaches to Subdivision Development in the Bow River Basin. A Guide for Municipalities, Developers and Landowners – Designed to assist municipalities and those thinking of developing rural land in the Bow River Basins, this document includes an overview of watershed and riparian issues, benefits and challenges is presented, along with tools and techniques that can be used for landscape conservation planning and protection of riparian areas.

Battle River Watershed Alliance Drought Adaptation and Management: Implementation Guidelines - This document outlines the BRWA’s implementation guidelines for drought adaptation and management in the Battle River and Sounding Creek watersheds in Alberta. Drought adaptation and management is one component of the BRWA’s watershed management planning process. This document includes guidelines for riparian area management.

Did we miss something?

If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!

Thanks for helping us out!

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