California’s Most Wasteful Water-Wasters: Restaurant Customers. There, We Said It

Twice a month, legendary bartender/chef/restaurant insider Dave Mau pops by Stick A Fork In It to chime in about a random OC food or drink musing of his choice. Enjoy!

Hope springs eternal but, despite holding out for a “March miracle,” it looks like the
great drought grinds on. It’s sinking in that we live in an artificial water utopia and it’s
time to check ourselves. The opulent water consumption we have been used to is a
thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future.

The above photo of the normally full Lake Edison in the John Muir Wilderness is creepy
for a couple of reasons. Obviously, the lake is low but even more startling is the lack of
snowpack in the high country stretching to the horizon. Usually this time of year,
everywhere above 8,000 feet has 10-12+ feet of snow. Some places have much, much
more. Not this year, pal! It’s dry as a bone up top and the little moisture that isn’t running
off, it is seeping into the ground as quick as the parched earth above tree line can soak it
up. That means essentially no runoff. On a recent jaunt to Yosemite, the Kings River just
South of Fresno was literally devoid of any water at a time when it should be raging with
Spring runoff. DAMNIT!


Considering the conditions, even the most austere of water management restrictions
aren’t gonna touch the problem. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about “big agra” and municipalities being responsible for much of the use/waste of our state’s precious water.
Approx 80 percent of our states water does, in fact, go to raising food for millions of
people here and around the world. What little economy there is in the Central Valley
also relies on said activity. But there are also millions of gallons of fresh water spilling
into the Sacramento River delta to protect a bunch of sardines.

But I digress.

Simply put, our individual use of water is fairly down the scale of things but that doesn’t
mean we are off the hook, including us peeps in The Biz. Restaurants are notorious water hogs, Sushi joints being the worst. I don’ want to even think about the amount of perfectly good food we throw out (I’ll save that for another time). We also generate mountains of waste: straws, glass, paper products, used fryer oil and the list goes on and on.
It really is a lot. Maybe we’re not dumping fiberglass shavings into the ecosystem like a
snowboard company or petroleum products like a refinery, but we contribute our fair
share to the pollution problem, believe me.

Between making ice, washing dishes, pouring beverages and mopping floors, restaurants are an absolute pit of despair when it comes to water usage. In fact, I think low-water waste restaurants are going to be the next “farm to table”. We certainly can’t conduct our business without water but that doesn’t mean we can’t contribute our fair share
in the effort to conserve. That goes for our patrons as well.

The dining public does plenty of crazy things when they go out to eat and it would take
me decades to document all of it. I don’t care what your political stance is, the OC is
the New Rome as far as culinary entitlement goes. Considering the overall water situation down here and the conditions of my much beloved, above-mentioned lake, the
worst of the worst in The Biz right now is guests ordering water as a matter of reflex and
either not touching it or barely taking a sip. I get it’s been par for the course but common
sense should tell you better and recent legislation slammed the door for ya. No more
water at the table unless you ask – per The Gov.

Now, there’s always some jackass boorishly ordering a round of water for the table with a grand wave of his hand like the MC at Medieval Times or some Sultan – “Serving
wench! Bring us waters…..waters for all of my guests!” If you’re gonna be that guy, man
up: pull out your wallet and order a round of drinks. Waters are not impressive. Every
day, we dump out an offensive amount of half-finished glasses of water and I get our
guests probably don’t even give it a second thought. But I’m here to lay down the law. If
you’re gonna order a water, just drink it. Let it course through your body and soak up all
the J├Ąger shots. Throw it up in the morning! Who cares, just don’t let it go to waste.

The same things are wrong here in California that are wrong in the rest of the developed
world. People are jackasses. There’s too many of us and we consume too much. We
manufacture or package the objects of said consumption with non-renewable materials
and transport them over ribbons of asphalt, concrete and steel. No amount of feel-good
plastic bag outlawing is gonna help with that.

The cold, hard truth is we live in a desert. Do we even belong here? That’s a good question: I’ll leave that one for posterity to decide. In the meantime, help us in The Biz help
you save water. Get used to ordering a Goddam water when you are actually thirsty, not
because you are bored, your phone died or that random hookup sitting across from you turned out to be a total dud.

Don’t even get me started on keeping my pool filled…

Follow @ocweeklyfood on Instagram! And check out Dave’s podcasts: Memphis Mondays and Fat Drunk And Happy!


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