Pesticides Toxicity Reduction

Reusable, non-toxic yellow-jacket trap (Photo by Program staff)
This product is a less-toxic option to control ant infestations (Photo by Program staff)

Pesticides are often toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Certain types of pesticides, such as organophosphates and pyrethroids, are especially harmful to humans and the aquatic food chain, and they have been found in California creeks. A major source of these toxic pesticides to creeks is urban watersheds. To protect local communities, SCVURPPP and its member agencies work together to reduce local pesticide use on municipal properties and public lands. Agencies conduct outreach to educate residents and businesses about the impact of pesticides on water quality, and they also provide information on eco-friendly methods to manage pests.


Person spraying pesticides outdoors (photo by USCDCP)

U.S. EPA Clean Water Act — Regulates the type and amount of discharges of biological and chemical pesticides that leave a residue into waters of the U.S., including streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, tidal waters, mudflats and canals.

How do Pesticides Reach our Waterways?

Urban uses of pesticides include commercial landscaping, personal gardens, and general control of outdoor weeds and bugs. Rain and irrigation water can wash pesticide residues from homes and businesses into storm drains. In Santa Clara Valley, and in most California cities, the storm drains empty directly to local creeks and the San Francisco Bay without any treatment. That’s why it is important to select the least-toxic method for controlling specific pests whenever possible.

In addition, improper disposal of pesticides down sinks and toilets can pollute local waterways. Contrary to popular belief, wastewater treatment plants do not detoxify pesticides. Leftover pesticides should be brought to household hazardous waste centers for proper disposal.


Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Planting native plants is one way to reduce pesticide use (Photo by J. Silva)

SCVURPPP and its member agencies work together to promote the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control pests. IPM uses a combination of techniques, such as physical barriers, habitat changes, and as a last resort, less-toxic chemicals. These methods help reduce the impact and toxicity of local pesticide use on stormwater and waterways.

Pesticide Monitoring Activities

Water samples are collected & sent to certified laboratories for analyses (Public Domain)

SCVURPPP and municipal staff monitor creeks and receiving waters in the Santa Clara Valley for pesticides.  For more information on methods, results and conclusions relating to water quality monitoring, see the Library.

Pesticide data for Santa Clara Valley creeks and receiving waters will be included in the Water Quality Monitoring Data page. (UNDER CONSTRUCTION)

Public Outreach

To help residents and businesses make creek-friendly decisions about landscape management, pest control and hazardous waste disposal, SCVURPPP conducts and assists with several public education programs:

“Our Water, Our World” shelf-talkers, letting people know which gardening products are less-toxic (Photo by Program staff)

Educating hardware store staff on less-toxic pest control (Photo by Program staff)

Partnering with Retail Stores and Gardening Centers – SCVURPPP partners with local nurseries and gardening supply stores to provide information on less-toxic pest control options.  The partnership involves displaying more than twenty pest management fact sheets at stores, and placing tags on store shelves to make it easier for the public to identify less-toxic alternatives to conventional pesticides. In addition, SCVURPPP provides trainings to pesticide store employees encouraging them to sell less-toxic products.

Media Advertising – Messages about less-toxic pest control and proper disposal of household hazardous waste are included within Watershed Watch advertising.

Outreach at Events – SCVURPPP and member agencies conduct outreach on less-toxic pest management at community events, sharing and giveaways with the public.

Going Native Garden Tour – The Program provides funding to support the annual Going Native Garden Tour, which showcases gardens featuring California native plants.

Santa Clara Valley Green Gardener Program – SCVURPPP partners with the Fremont Union High School District Adult School and Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County to implement the Santa Clara Valley Green Gardener Program. This training program is an educational initiative that brings quality instruction to professional landscapers, gardeners and landscape maintenance workers on how to “garden green” and use techniques that support sustainable landscaping practices.

Booth with outreach materials at a community event in Santa Clara Valley (Photo by Program staff)

South Bay Green Gardens – The South Bay Green Gardens program aims to help gardeners conserve waters, prevent pollution, and promote healthy soils.  It is a joint outreach effort between Santa Clara Valley municipal agencies, SCVURPPP and the Santa Clara County Recycling and Waste Reduction Technical Advisory Committee.

Pesticides Toxicity Reduction Documents

For more information and resources: IPM and Less Toxic Ways to Control Pests (Watershed Watch website)

4/30/2024IPM Workshop April 25, 2024Workshops
5/25/2021Landscape IPM Workshop 2021Workshops
9/30/2019Pesticide Source Control Effectiveness EvaluationReports