Water program floods eateries

Restaurant patrons in the city will no longer see glasses of water automatically appear on their tables while they study the menu.

Local restaurants recently began serving water only upon request. The effort, the North Coast County Water District claims, could save up to two gallons of water per customer.

The conservation program created by the water district offered restaurants reusable plastic place cards that explain the water-upon-request policy and its beneficial results. In Pacifica, the first Bay Area city to implement such a widespread program, 32 out of 33 sit down restaurants are now following the program.

“A lot of restaurants will just put water on the table as a matter of fact and a lot of people won’t drink it,” general manager Kevin O’Connell said. “We figured this would be a simple way to make an immediate difference without negatively impacting people. It’s better for the business and better for the environment.”

Many customers order a drink and don’t consume their free glass of water, which then has to be dumped by the restaurant and then washed with more water, a total waste of about two gallons, O’Connell said.

Several water districts in the Bay Area encouraged the water-upon-request policy during the drought in the late 1980s, district board member Mason Brown said, but the idea has since lost its tract.

Brown, who delivered the cards to 32 restaurants, said the owners’ response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“There is such a waste of water in the restaurant business,” said Nick Gust, who owns the famed Nick’s Restaurant at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica. “We used to give everybody a glass of water, but maybe half would touch the water, then you have to throw it out — it’s a big cycle where it’sa total waste.”

Gust said he has not heard any complaints from the customers, only half of which have been requesting water.

Since the launch of Pacifica’s program this month, Half Moon Bay and East Bay Municipal Utility District, which covers parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties and is facing shortages that may soon result in mandatory rationing, inquired about it.

The program may not be suitable for restaurants that cater to tourists, said Kevin Westlye, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, the trade group that represents San Francisco restaurants, because it may be perceived as a reduction in service rather than an environmental measure.

svasilyuk@examiner.com  

Bay Area NewsLocal

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