California restaurants to stop offering water in conservation effort

Two glasses of ice water are shown in this undated file photo. (KABC)

California restaurants will no longer be able to offer water to their customers or they'll risk facing hundreds of dollars in fines. The new regulation comes as the state enters its fourth year of severe drought.

"It absolutely makes sense, since California has always been in a state of drought of some sort," said Cathy Pavlos, chef and owner of Provenance Restaurant in Newport Beach. "We're a hospitality business. The first thing we normally do is offer water to our customers. With this (new regulation), it looks like we're providing bad service to the customer."

The State Water Resources Control Board says local enforcement agencies would have the discretion to issue a first time warning or a fine of up to $500 a day in which the violation occurs.

Pavlos says she wishes the state provided more warning, so customers know what to expect.

"I understand their dilemma," said Carole Allen, a Mission Viejo resident. "I don't think that I would feel that they're not being hospitable."

The restaurant is already being careful, using a drip irrigation system in the 1,300 square foot organic garden that surrounds the back of the restaurant.

Raised boxes contain herbs, lettuce and a variety of fruits and vegetables. The garden yields more than 15 percent of the restaurant and bar's ingredients, Pavlos said.

She says they don't water until the plants need water.

"It doesn't have to be watered all the time. When the foliage begins to droop and begins to curl, then (we) release the water," Pavlos said.

They've also stopped using water to blow insects off leaves. Instead, they pick bugs off the plants by hand.

In the kitchen, more labor is also going into scrubbing dishes to save water. They make sure the dish rack is full before running the dishwasher, she said.

Pavlos welcomes a plan by the Irvine Ranch Water District that will supply local restaurants with table signs to let customers know because of the drought, they won't be receiving water unless they ask for it.

Eyewitness News is committed to helping you Beat the Drought, and we want to hear your ideas too! Join the Circle of Eyewitnesses and tell us what you're doing to save water. Share your pictures or video on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook with #ABC7Drought.
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