News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


Subject :

City Reduces Pesticide Use by 77%; Needs Residents to Join Water Protection Effort
Contact : Julie Weiss, Environmental Specialist    650-329-2117
Palo Alto, CA –The City of Palo Alto reports inspiring results from aggressive efforts to reduce its use of pesticides and needs the support of residents to have a greater impact on improving the water quality of local creeks and the San Francisco Bay. Palo Alto began reducing pesticide use at city-owned parks, buildings and other properties in 2001 and has announced a 77% reduction in it use of insecticides and a 75% reduction in the use of herbicides since 2003. It has also initiated the City's first pesticide-free park. 

The City’s success was documented in a new report by its Regional Water Quality Control Plant staff and is the direct result of an ecological approach to pest control called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM, also known as "less-toxic pest management," controls pests using a variety of techniques designed to reduce or completely eliminate the use of pesticides that are harmful to people, pets and wildlife. When pesticides are needed, the least toxic options are utilized first.

The City’s IPM approach includes using structural barriers to deter mice and rats, mulch to suppress weeds and conserve water in parks, goats to eat weeds in open spaces, power washing to control moths in trees, raptor perches and fence screening to reduce ground squirrel activity and experimenting with less-toxic pesticide products. 

Palo Alto was the first city in California to require its structural pest control services to have the “EcoWise Certified” designation, which sets strict standards for less-toxic pest control methods including discontinuing the use of ant sprays. The City has also been experimenting with the use of “bee tunnels” to protect people and imperiled bee populations when hives are established in close proximity to the public. The tunnels are fitted over the hive entrance and divert bees further up the tree, which allows them to enter and exit away from the public.  The tunnels help to reduce the anxiety of people who are concerned about being stung.

“IPM was initially developed for use by agriculture, but today it is used by a growing number of cities like ours and knowledgeable homeowners who want to control pests without harming the environment,” says Julie Weiss, Environmental Specialist for the City of Palo Alto.

“While we are proud to report that we have reduced the City’s use of pesticides and, as a result, our own contribution to a serious problem that is affecting virtually every creek in Santa Clara County, we urge residents to adopt some of the same ecological pest-management practices that we use,” says Weiss. 

Public support is needed because the chief source of creek pesticide toxicity stems from pesticide use, mostly insecticides–in homes and buildings. A recent study prepared for the San Francisco Estuary Project found that some insecticides are detected more often, and usually in higher concentrations, in urban streams as opposed to agricultural streams. Our Water, Our World is a program developed by Bay Area water quality agencies to address this concern and provides information at local garden and hardware stores to teach residents about effective and less-toxic pest control and prevention. The program’s website,, is considered one of the best sources of reliable information on safe pest control.

The announcement of Palo Alto’s first pesticide-free park, Sarah Wallis Park, introduces a pilot program to assess the feasibility of pesticide-free management of many of the City’s nearly 40 parks. Wallis Park is a small three-acre located at 202 Ash Street, just south of the California Avenue business district. The City will consider making one or two more parks pesticide-free each year as funding allows.  

Palo Alto’s latest success is another milestone in its ongoing water-quality improvement efforts. Early success in reducing pesticides earned the City the IPM Innovator of the Year Award in 2003 from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Further reductions in pesticides are targeted for 2009 and include using IPM tactics to control destructive gophers and ground squirrels.  

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