The once-standard complimentary glass of water is no longer automatic when patrons sit down to dine at restaurants in California. On Tuesday, the drought-stricken state imposed new conservation rules that prohibit restaurants from serving the life-sustaining liquid unless customers ask for it.
Diners in some locations are already used to doing without, as various operators voluntarily scaled back on water service prior to the new regs. The San Jose Mercury News cites one Santa Clara restaurant where thirsty customers had been asked to serve themselves from a water-filled thermos on the counter, using the smallest glasses on hand.
But beyond the added burden on business owners who must comply with yet another layer of regulations, California’s direly parched conditions also pose a moral dilemma to diners. Sure, it’s still legal to ask for and receive a glass of water at restaurants in the Golden State. But should you? Given the current situation, it seems like kind of a dick move, no matter how bone-dry your palate might seem.
Just how bad is California’s ongoing water crisis? Writing in the Los Angeles Times, one NASA scientist recently suggested the state has only about a one-year supply left in its reservoirs. If that ominous statistic doesn’t weigh on your conscience at the dinner table, then maybe the social stigma will get to you. Openly sipping from a full water glass amid a historic drought is like walking around with a bright-orange shopping bag from Hermès during a ravaging recession. Heck, it’s worse. If you’ve ever committed the sin of ordering beef at an Indian restaurant, then you can probably imagine the intense glaring looks you’ll probably receive when you ask for water in California.
And yet abstaining from agua alone won’t solve the problem. In fact, beyond the obvious drink factor, truly conscious consumers might want to rethink their entire order. As the Huffington Post recently pointed out, it can take more than 1,200 gallons of water to produce one eight-ounce steak, the same amount as a 10-hour shower. By comparison, a single glass of water seems rather inconsequential.
In that light, it would seem the current restaurant regs don’t go nearly far enough. And maybe additional rules will be necessary as conditions worsen.
Speaking to the Mercury News, one restaurant customer offered an especially draconian suggestion that nicely sums up the seriousness of the situation out west: “If you ask for water, you have to drink the whole thing, or you’ll be arrested, handcuffed and taken away.”