Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency as California finds itself in a severe drought that may ultimately be the worst situation since record-keeping started more than 100 years ago. California residents are being asked to cut back 20% of their water use to help cope with the lack of water in state reservoirs. As a high-water-using industry, people are turning their eyes to restaurants to cut back on their water usage as well. This can prove challenging for a business that depends on as much water as foodservice establishments, but conservation has quickly become an essential concern for restaurant operators.
Restaurants can take a number of steps toward lessening water usage. Four simple, low-cost steps that are easy to implement include:
Ask your guest if they would like a glass of water: According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), if the foodservice industry didn't automatically serve water to all customers, the industry would potentially save more than 25 million gallons of water annually. If water goes untouched, it is wasted. Only serving the guest water if they ask for it will result in less water wasted and fewer glasses to clean. Also, waiting for a water glass to be empty before refilling it will ensure less waste.
Testing for leaking toilets and faucets: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,100 gallons per year. Installing low-flow aerators on restaurant faucets also will help lower the amount of water that is wasted. Doing so can reduce the amount of water used by as much as 60%.
Recycling dishwasher water and limiting usage: One of the largest uses of water in a restaurant is dishwashing. Many restaurants have installed scraping systems that recycle water out of the dishwasher to pre-clean dishes, resulting in less spray rinsing and wasted water. Running the dishwasher only when it is completely full is a simple way to cut back on water usage.
Cutting down on running water: Cutting down on running water to thaw frozen items or washing vegetables can cause a restaurant to use as much as 90,000 gallons of water annually. Thawing items in the refrigerator and washing vegetables in a wash basin instead of running water are two ways to help drastically cut this number down.
Taking action to limit water usage now will help in the long run, as its unclear how long and how pervasive the drought will become. The California Restaurant Association (CRA) will continue to develop more resources and information about the drought as it becomes available.