Surface and Stormwater Management

2020 Water Quality Report - Golden Valley

Printed copies available upon request.
Call 763-593-8030.

Golden Valley's water resources include Bassett Creek, recreational lakes, ponds, and wetlands. Storm sewer pipes carry rain, melting snow, and other clear water (but not wastewater) to these streams, ponds, or other water bodies. The runoff is directed to the storm sewer system through storm drains in and under the gutters (catch basins) of the street system. As water moves toward these drains, it picks up pollutants (soil, leaves, grass clippings, pet waste, oil, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and litter) and carries them into the storm sewer system. This water is not treated before it is returned to the environment, but devices such as storm water ponds help filter sediment and pollutants before the water reaches natural waterways. Golden Valley proactively manages its water resources to enhance and maintain the quality of surface and ground water.

+Maintaining The Storm Sewer System

Golden Valley’s 90 miles of storm sewer pipes are closer to the surface (3 to 15 feet underground) than sanitary sewer or water pipes because the water they handle is continually flowing downhill to the nearest outlet (a pond, lake, river, creek, or wetland). The City's storm sewer system also includes around 1,000 catch basins (storm drains) and multiple storm water ponds.

To keep storm water flowing smoothly, the City:

  • cleans ponds
  • cleans storm water pipes, catch basins (storm drains), and outlets
  • installs and cleans sump catch basins
  • installs and cleans environmental manholes (which catch sediment while allowing storm water to flow through)
  • sweeps streets

Bassett Creek

The City also maintains the flow of Bassett Creek, which flows in from the west and meanders through the City to the east. To prevent flooding, the City checks the creek for debris that will restrict the flow. Certain areas along the creek are in the flood plain and will rise in flood conditions.

+Living In a Watershed

A watershed is an area where stormwater runoff goes to the same place. No matter where you live, you are in a watershed. In Golden Valley, nearly all the water runoff drains into Bassett Creek. The Bassett Creek Watershed is one of 46 major watersheds in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

To picture a watershed, think of the entire surface area of Golden Valley as the top of a funnel. All the water that falls onto the surface of Golden Valley, through precipitation or intentionally through activities like lawn watering, is entering the top of that funnel. Water running down the funnel moves over pavement, streets, roof tops, and through private and public lawns. The water may go through lakes, ponds, streams, underground pipes connected to storm drains, or seep through the soil and travel underground. On its way down the funnel, the water collects anything stuck to the sides of the funnel--chemicals, leaves, fertilizers, grass clippings, etc. No matter how diverse its course, almost all water that enters the top of the funnel--the surface of Golden Valley--exits, with everything it has picked up, into Bassett Creek.

To learn more, watch the following Minnesota Pollution Control Agency video:

+Managing a Watershed

As Golden Valley developed, more paved surfaces directed water to Bassett Creek and flood control became an issue. In 1969, Golden Valley joined Plymouth, Medicine Lake, Robbinsdale, Crystal, New Hope, Minnetonka, St Louis Park, and Minneapolis to form the Bassett Creek Flood Control Commission. Its primary focus was to control flooding of Bassett Creek.

As environmental awareness grew over the years, water quality became an issue. In 1982, the State passed the Metropolitan Surface Water Management Act, which required that a water management organization be established for each watershed in the metropolitan area. In response, the Bassett Creek Flood Control Commission became the Bassett Creek Watershed Management Commission (BCWMC). Since its inception in 1984, the BCWMC has maintained two primary concerns: flooding control and water quality management. It also regulates the surface water management plans of its nine member cities.

To learn more, watch the following Minnesota Pollution Control Agency videos:

+Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE)

Illicit discharges include anything that enters a stormwater system that is not composed entirely of stormwater. They enter water bodies through direct connections (eg, wastewater piping connected to storm drains) or indirect connections (eg, cracked sanitary sewer systems, spills collected by storm drains, or paint or used oil dumped into a storm drain). The result is untreated discharges that contribute to high levels of pollutants, including heavy metals, toxins, oil and grease, solvents, nutrients, viruses, and bacteria.

Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that pollutant levels from illicit discharges are high enough to significantly degrade water quality and threaten aquatic, wildlife, and human health.

Detecting Illicit Discharge

City crews are always on the lookout for illicit discharges to local waters while conducting their regular duties. They also conduct formal outfall inspections while performing other work. Employees who observe evidence of an illicit discharge collect information so appropriate action can be taken.

Citizens can help by learning as much as possible about what materials can go down storm drains and by being alert for potential illicit discharges to the storm sewer system. Every curb line is like a shoreline and needs to be treated the same. If you see something that looks out of place or notice illegal dumping, make sure to report it.

Reporting Illicit Discharge

Citizens who see illicit discharges can complete the IDDE reporting form or contact the water resources technician at 763-593-8044. If you witness illegal dumping, an emergency spill, or a situation that could immediately threaten life or public safety, call 911 immediately.

Quick response times are key to stopping pollutants, so promptly report any incidents as soon as you see them, including:

  • murky water runoff
  • an oily sheen on surface water
  • dry weather flow
  • unusual odors
  • off color water
  • residue left in the street after water has dried
  • suspicious activity around storm drains

It’s important to collect as much information as possible at the time of initial observation, including potential sources, because of the likelihood that a discharge may be transitory or intermittent. Stopping illicit discharges will help secure a future of clean water for generations to come.


Stormwater Ponds

Shoreline Landscaping


The City of Golden Valley administers several storm water management programs. The following two programs require the property owner to petition the City in order to implement the project.

+Rear Yard Drainage

The City's rear yard drainage policy allows property owners to petition for improvements to correct a problem drainage area. The City will provide property owners with technical assistance regarding the problem; however, the City will not assist with the cost of any improvements, as it is only responsible for the drainage from the roadways and respective right-of-way. All costs associated with any improvements performed as a City project are assessed to each property contributing flow to the problem area.

+Storm Drain/Pond Adoption Program

Along with preventing pollution before it hits the ground, so to speak, there are two chances to stop it from entering Golden Valley surface water: before it makes it to a storm drain inlet, and before it leaves the storm drain outlet and enters the surface water (see image below).

Storm Drain stencilStorm Drain Inlet Program

To prevent pollutants from entering the storm drain on your street, consider working to keep it clear of debris. Or, sign up for Golden Valley’s Storm Drain Stenciling Program, an educational component of the City’s Surface Water Management Plan.

Volunteers stencil a fish symbol, combined with a "Dump No Waste" message, near storm drains that lead to a neighborhood pond, lake, or Bassett Creek to increase surface water awareness and remind citizens of their role in protecting water resources.

Storm Drain Outlet Program

The best defense of water resources is to prevent pollutants from getting there, and storm drain outlets are the last frontier. If you live near a lake, pond, or stream with an outlet basin, perhaps this is where you can help most. City staff is available to assist, coordinate, and encourage volunteers to adopt certain storm drain outlets and to set up a system to notify the City of operation and maintenance concerns and illicit discharges.

Please call Engineering staff at 763-593-8030 if you are interested in adopting an inlet or outlet.

Pond Adoption Program

Please call Engineering staff at 763-593-8030 for more information.

+Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program (SWPPP)

All communities with more than 10,000 people are federally mandated to obtain a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit. They must also report annually how they are managing storm water discharge to reduce sediment and pollution loading in natural receiving waters such as lakes, wetlands, and streams.

The process is called the Phase II National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit, and it requires significant planning by the City, including an annual meeting where the public can comment on the program.

+How Property Owners Can Help

If the gutter in front of your property becomes clogged with leaves or debris, clear it out. Such efforts can prevent a significant amount of run-off from entering the storm sewer system and ending up in Bassett Creek, Sweeney Lake, or the Mississippi River. If you have a catch basin on your street or live near a lake, pond, or stream with an outlet basin, consider participating in one of the City's storm drain adoption programs.

You can also help by maintaining healthy lawns and not leaving debris or possible pollutants on lawns, driveways, or streets.

Winter Storm Water Management

Road salt and deicing chemicals contain chemicals toxic to fish and plants. Melted snow and ice carry these harmful substances through sewers, leading to streams, rivers, and lakes. Limit your salt use by shoveling and snow blowing often during storms, knowing when to salt and how much to use, and by sweeping up leftover salt. Click here for more information.

Sump Pumps

Sump pump systems are designed to capture surface or ground water that enters basements or crawl spaces and pump it away from the house. If you have a sump pump, make sure the discharge is directed outside your house and NOT into the sanitary sewer system. That’s called a cross connection, is a leading cause of inflow and infiltration, and results in higher sanitary sewer charges.


SEA School-Wildwood Park

Medley Park Stormwater Improvement Project

Sochacki Park (Rice Ponds) Subwatershed Assessment

Medicine Lake Rd & Decola Ponds Flood Mitigation Plan

Schaper Pond Diversion Project

Stream Bank Stabilization

Bassett Creek Projects