Republican Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama (AD-2) has introduced legislation that prohibits restaurants from serving customers water unless requested. However, if the restaurant accidentally puts an unrequested glass of water on the table, fines or citations will not be imposed.
According to the bill’s language (emphasis added):
Section 1 of this bill prohibits a food establishment from providing drinking water to a customer unless the customer requests drinking water. Section 1 also: (1) requires a food establishment to demonstrate compliance with this prohibition upon inspection by the health authority; and authorizes the State Board of Health and local boards of health to adopt regulations setting forth how a food establishment may show compliance with this prohibition. Sections 1 and 2 of this bill provide that a food establishment is not subject to any penalty or fine for a violation of section 1.
In California, similar regulations were passed and paved the way to restrictive legislation impacting households.
In 2015, the California State Water Resources Control Board announced sweeping new regulations in an attempt to help alleviate the ongoing drought whereby restaurants and bars in the state were no longer permitted to serve water automatically. New York also prohibits serving water in a restaurant unless a patron requests it.
The unelected bureaucrats at the Nevada State Board of Health or local agencies could follow California’s lead and issue regulations affecting hotels and households in the need to conserve water. If this bill should pass, it could also embolden lawmakers to craft new legislation limiting water use to households.
For example, laws passed in 2018 and 2020 in California restricted residents to an allowance of 55 gallons per person per day for indoor water use–dropping to 50 gallons by 2030. These laws essentially restricted residents from showering and doing laundry on the same day.
If there are no fines or penalties to restaurants for serving an unrequested glass of water, what is the point of this bill? Is it to establish a California precedent to enact future legislation and empower unelected bureaucrats?
According to a report by Colton Lochead of The Review Journal, Assm. Kasama said this bill is about “optics”:
Kasama said part of the reason for her bill “is the optics,” as opposed to outright water savings. The bill contains no penalties or fines for restaurants that do hand out unsolicited glasses of water.
“When I go through a restaurant and I leave, I see so many glasses half-full of water. So many restaurants are already pouring that out,” she said. “It’s just good practice for everyone to do their part, so that’s why I thought this would be a good bill.”
Lochead also notes: “More than 20 years ago, the water authority partnered with the Nevada Restaurant Association and the Water Conservation Coalition to implement its “Water Upon Request” program. That program, which has about 200 participating restaurants, provides menu stickers to indicate the restaurants’ support for water conservation by serving water only upon request.”
The Globe has reached out to Assemblywoman Kasama for comment. We will update our readers with her response when and if received.
Editors Note: This story has been updated to include Lochead’s report.
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