The below letter was written to comment on the State Water Board’s proposed policy to prohibit wasteful water use practices. It was written on behalf of hundreds of restaurants across California in the Blue Business Council and Ocean Friendly Restaurants network.
December 15, 2017
RE: Comment Letter – Prohibiting Wasteful Water Use Practices
Dear Chair Marcus and Board Members,
We are members of Blue Business Council and Ocean Friendly Restaurants, restaurants that are committed to adopting sustainable practices, including those to reduce our water footprint. We believe that this includes stemming wasteful water use practices in our sector and educating our customers on valuing every drop, not only during times of drought, but always. We appreciate the work of the State Water Board to make conservation a way of life in California by developing regulations to permanently prohibit wasteful water uses.
During the emergency drought, restaurants were required to serve water only upon request. This was a change for many of us, who had always welcomed guests with water upon being seated. However, we were happy to do our part, alongside so many people and businesses throughout California who stepped up to meet and exceed conservation targets. In order to implement the restaurant restriction, we trained our staff to implement the new rule and educated our customers on the need for it, as well as created and displayed information about water conservation on our menus, websites, and walls.
We are acutely aware of the water issues facing California and proud to help prompt thinking and conservation about water among our customers. Now that we are no longer in a state of emergency drought, we can update our content to reflect the many other reasons to value every drop of water—the fact that one million Californians do not have access to safe, affordable drinking water, the fact that our state faces a hotter, drier future with climate change, the fact that some of our rivers do not have enough water flowing through them to sustain salmon and other fish populations.
Having already done the work to implement this practice, we do not see the wisdom in now abandoning it. Doing so would lead to the perception that “the drought is over.” Having restaurants serve water only upon request and explain the rationale for doing so is exactly the kind of change in practice that reflects our state’s commitment to cultivating a strong water conservation ethic in every Californian. We recognize that water savings may be a small part of broader water needs and conservation and efficiency gains, but it costs us virtually nothing and collectively amounts to a cost-free water education and outreach program.
When customers are charged with requesting water, they also have the opportunity to ask for “no straw” in the many restaurants who habitually place straws in drinks. This helps us meet our single-use plastic reduction goals, and plastic pollution impacts to our coast, bays, rivers, and ocean.
Finally, because we continue to only serve water upon request and take other efforts to save water, we know it can be done – and therefore we ask that you implement the same standards for everyone. We believe California restaurants are up to the challenge of implementing these reforms to conserve California’s water resources and to make our state more resilient and sustainable.