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Drink up, but don't waste your water

Why is it, if we are in a drought, that restaurants serve water without asking? I do not think people realize where we could be headed. As I sit at restaurants I see full glasses of water that people leave and where do they go? Yup, down the drain. I also know people who wash their dishes or rinse them to put in the dishwasher and leave the faucet running while doing so! People, wake up! Why is it that restaurants do not ask first if you would like water?

— Barbara, Eagle Point

Well, Barbara, many do ask. In fact, while dining out on our comfortable Since You Asked executive-level per diem (you'd be amazed what $1.25 will get you),  we actually had the opposite experience of yours, with both of the most recent establishments asking if we wanted water.

Some fine-dining restaurants, such as Jacksonville Inn or Larks in Medford, do automatically provide water to diners. But many, particularly the more casual, do not.

That's also been the experience of Steve McCoid, the CEO of the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association. "I'd say there are more who say, 'Do you want it?' than not," he said, while quickly adding they have not done a survey.

In drought-stricken California, servers in bars, restaurants and cafeterias can't bring out water unless customers ask. There is no such rule in Oregon.

In our little neck of the woods, we're far from the dire — and dry — straits suffered by our neighbors to the south. The Medford Water Commission says that despite the low snowpack this year, precipitation was close to normal and the volcanic nature of the soils in the watershed near Mount McLoughlin means the rain largely made its way into the aquifers. Water from that area or the Rogue River serves almost all of the cities in the valley.

That's not to say we shouldn't conserve. And you are right about dish washing. According to Scientific American, a typical hand washing of dishes uses about 20 gallons of water, an amount that can double if the tap is allowed to run.  An electric dishwasher is best of all, using about 10 gallons for an average load.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.