Watershed Information

Watersheds in the City of Gem Lake

Gem Lake’s City boundaries overlaps with two watersheds that help manage local surface waters and promote water quality improvements. These include:

  • The Vadnais Lake Area Water Management Organization (VLAWMO) www.vlawmo.org
  • Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District (RWMWD) www.rwmwd.org

Gem Lake

Surface Area 40 acres
Average Depth 7 ft
Volume 183 acre-ft
Subcatchment Area 363 acres
Location Gem Lake

Gem Lake is a unique sub-watershed basin within the VLAWMO watershed. While most of the VLAWMO watershed drains into East Vadnais Lake, water falling in the Gem Lake subwatershed stays in the area and drains into Gem Lake. The southern end of Gem Lake is wetland while the north end reaches a depth of up to 14 feet.

Sitting in the southeast corner of VLAWMO, Gem Lake is a unique basin within the Watershed. The Gem Lake subwatershed does not drain outside of its boundary, therefore, none of the water falling in the Gem Lake subwatershed leaves the area, and does not drain to any other area within VLAWMO. The south end of the lake is wetland while the north gets as deep as  14 feet and exhibits deep lake characteristics.

The lake is surrounded by private property and has no public access. Water monitoring has been performed on the lake since 2005. Water quality has increased by a good margin since 2009, showing a decrease in nutrients in the water column and an increase in water clarity. It has not confirmed by a formal water study, but it is likely that a renovation of a bioswale along Highway 61 played a part in Gem Lake’s improvement.

As of 2018, Gem Lake was formally de-listed from the Minnesota state impaired waters list. Click here for the announcement that contains more info and a map of the bioswale location.

Watershed Resources

Both of the watersheds in the City of Gem Lake have programs and resources to support homeowners with property improvements that help support the surrounding watershed.

Wetland Buffers

A buffer is a protective zone surrounding a wetland, pond, stream, or lake where plants are allowed to grow. Buffers consisting of native plants are preferred due to their ability to provide deep roots and more surface cover along shorelines and banks. This reduces erosion keeps nutrients on land where they belong, improves habitat, and supports a stable water table. Keeping sediment and nutrients on land and out of the water helps prevent algae blooms and supports wetland function, including their connection to groundwater. Click here for more information on wetland buffers.

Wetland Buffers: The Basics

Yardwaste and Illicit Discharge

Illicit discharge is the disposal or discharge of pollutants and non-storm water materials into a storm drain system via surface flow, direct dumping into the storm sewer or water body, or through illegal connections to the stormdrain system.

Grass clippings, leaves, and other yardwaste and debris may seem natural and innocent, but should never be disposed in ditches, wetlands, or banks and downslopes leading to waterbodies. Small amounts of yard debris can be composted in designated home compost piles. Plan ahead to dispose of yardwaste through a curbside hauler service or transport it to a Ramsey County Compost Facility.

Acceptable Discharges and Disposal Guide: Ramsey County

For additional information on illicit discharge see the resources below:

Smart Salting

Smart salting is a new phrase that refers to being thoughtful about your use of winter de-icer. It strives to maintain safe surfaces while reducing excess in order to help reduce permanent pollution to groundwater and surface water resources.

Join the effort by following these simple steps: Shovel, Select, Scatter, Sweep.

Click here for more on smart salting steps.

Gem Lake Smart Salting Guide

Pet Waste

Pet waste is a major surface water pollutant that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) places in the same category as toxic chemicals and soil. Pet waste carries pathogens and harmful bacteria such as fecal coliform. Neglected pet waste can take up to a year or more to fully break down, and as it does, washes pathogens and excess nutrients into lakes and other waterways. When pet waste decomposes in wet environments, it releases ammonia into the water, which is harmful to fish and amphibians.

Help keep people safe and water clean:

  • Pick-up waste ASAP instead of letting it sit
  • Practice responsible habits: Always bring a doggie-bag on walks
  • Tell a friend that freshwater needs our help to balance nutrient and bacteria levels

Scoop it, bag it, trash it.

Water Conservation Tips

What can we do to conserve water?

  • Choose a sprinkler that disperses water low and in drops opposed to a high mist.
  • Pay attention to rainfall and adjust watering schedules accordingly, in addition to odd/even watering days. Turf generally needs just 1″/week. Water in early morning/evening.
  • Consider allowing a dormant or slightly dormant “brown” look. Dormancy is a normal part of turf grass’ annual cycle.
  • Never water pavement. Stray irrigation heads are often an easy fix, and sprinkler placement can always try to keep water on the lawn.
  • Mow lawn at 3″ or more to encourage deeper roots that hold more moisture. This also buffers times of drought.
  • Try introducing native plants, a bee lawn, sedge ground covers, or low-mow fescues.

Water Conservation in the home:

  • Keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge to reduce time spent waiting for the faucet to change temperature.
  • Try “army showers” that turn the water off when lathering, and aim for 3-5 minutes total.
  • Check toilets and faucets for leaks often and make repairs quickly.
  • Visit commercial car washes to send wash water and road gunk to a water treatment plant. Driveway washing sends this material to local waterways. To be adventurous at home, try washing cars on the lawn.

Other ways to help:

  • Visit you local watershed website for more water tips and cost-share grants for yard and drainage improvements.
  • Visit adopt-a-drain.org to adopt a nearby stormdrain and volunteer to keep it clean.

Watershed Plans and Policies

Current water plans in Gem Lake and local water policies

North Scheuneman Road Surface Water Management Plan. This plan is intended to
provide a summary of the analysis completed to alleviate flooding and inundation in the north
Scheunemann Road area. Three primary areas were investigated throughout the study area, with a total
of six scenarios for the flooding and inundation and two scenarios for water quality options.

VLAWMO Water Management Standards and Policy

RWMWD Rules and Permits

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  • To reach the City of Gem Lake – please call 651 747-2790 or 651 747-2792

    City offices/days open: 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Monday-Thursday, closed Fridays.