Vegetative buffer strips are being widely promoted as an effective technique to protect rivers and streams from the negative impacts of adjacent land uses including forestry and agriculture. An extensive review of the literature revealed that despite the intuitive appeal of buffer strips, data demonstrating their efficacy is highly variable and most studies demonstrating significant nutrient removal in buffer zones come from studies undertaken in riparian buffers greater than 30 m wide. These buffers are much wider than what land managers can typically expect farmers to remove from active production in order to protect water quality. Research attempting to demonstrate the efficacy of riparian buffers needs to focus on buffer widths that are within the range that landowners are likely to "give up" in the name of water quality protection. Lack of experimental evidence from buffers in the 1- to 10-m width range typically encountered on farms makes it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about the efficacy of riparian buffers in agricultural areas.