Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version

Spring 2015


Environmental Studies Undergraduate Student Thesis, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 2015


Copyright © 2015 Caitlin Miller


A study was conducted to determine the affect riparian buffers have on water quality in perennial streams in southern Minnesota. A report from the Environmental Working Group was used to determine how well each county maintained a 50 ft. buffer on perennial streams. Six counties were chosen from across the southern half of Minnesota, three counties receiving a passing grade from EWG and three receiving a failing grade. The counties were paired (one passing, one failing) based on soil type, stream size, and hydrology. Monthly averages for total suspended solids (TSS) and turbidity were determined over a period of four years. The data was plotted to reveal seasonal trends and variations. Statistical analysis, specifically a t-test, was performed for all three comparisons. Counties that maintained their riparian buffers well were found to have lower and less variable TSS and turbidity levels overall compared to the counties with poor buffer maintenance. The results suggest that enforcing the current 50 ft. riparian buffer law in Minnesota is necessary to improve and protect the state’s perennial streams.