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Palmer Comments in Boston Globe About “Sprinkler Scofflaws” Who Cheat During Water Ban

Richard Palmer

Richard Palmer

Richard N. Palmer, the head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, commented in a story on August 26 by the Boston Globe about illegal lawn watering in the suburbs of Boston during the current drought.

As the Globe story explained “Some water under cover of darkness, waiting until night’s protective curtain has fallen to turn on their sprinklers while the neighbors slumber. Some are wealthy enough that, even when busted, they simply pay repeated fines and continue watering their lawn. And still others resort to deception, putting up bogus ‘well water’ signs so they can blast their sprinklers without drawing nasty scowls from neighbors and tickets from local officials.”

The Globe article added that “Officials in towns that have imposed partial or total sprinkler bans say most residents have complied, letting their lawns go brown in response to the worst drought in more than a decade. But there remains, officials say, a group of hardened sprinkler scofflaws who refuse to retire their sprayers and soaker hoses in order to maintain the ultimate suburban status symbol: the emerald-green lawn. The refusal by some to abide by the restrictions has frustrated authorities in affluent communities where lush lawns are cherished and envied.”

The Globe asked Palmer, a CEE professor and the university director of the Northeast Climate Science Center, to comment on those homeowners with private wells who continue to water their lawns. In response, Palmer said that, although their sources vary by location, many wells draw from the same groundwater that feeds municipal water systems.

Therefore, “It might well be appropriate to ask those with private water sources to follow the same sort of good-neighbor rules that everyone is being asked to follow,” Palmer said.

Palmer’s primary research area of interest is in evaluating the impacts of climate change on water resources (broadly defined). This includes drought planning, real-time water resource management, and the application of decision support to civil engineering management problems. He helped develop the field of “shared vision modeling” in water resources planning and pioneered the use of “virtual drought exercises.” Palmer is also a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. (August 2016)