California Drought Inspires Chef To Clean Dishes Without Water

California is looking for any possible way to conserve its water. Governor Jerry Brown had to institute California's first-ever statewide mandatory water restrictions, as the state has entered its fourth year of severe drought. And since Nestlé is refusing to stop bottling its water, the state needs all the help it can get.

The new regulations really only affect restaurants directly in one way: They're only allowed to serve water upon request (so no automatic fills or refills).

But John Cox, of the Post Ranch Inn's restaurant Sierra Mar in Big Sur, has taken it upon himself to find a way to conserve the scarce resource. He's been cleaning everything in his restaurant — from the ovens and stoves to the tabletops, dishes, and utensils — with an air compressor. As a result, he is using 80% less waster.

“If all the restaurants in California were to do this, it could save between 5 and 10 billion gallons of water a year,” Cox told CBS. “And that’s not including schools, office buildings, hotels, prisons — it may just be a small drop in the bucket but at this point, any drops in the bucket help. If we can do our part in the restaurants, hopefully other people will come up with creative solutions as well.”

By spreading his idea on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, he said he's already convinced five other restaurants to make this change, and numerous other chefs have contacted him about getting on board.

Here's the (now famous) video of him cleaning off a plate using the air compressor:

Please share with your California restaurant friends! A bit of background- Given the current drought we have been looking for creative ways to conserve water at Post Ranch Inn. Sierra Mar uses approximately 3,500 gallons of water per day (already well below the industry average). One of the single largest uses is for spraying off dirty pans and dishes before loading them into the dish machine. Just that one spray handle uses close to 1,000 gallons of water per day. Last week we installed an air compressor on our dish station to use in place of the water sprayer. By using compressed air we have been able to reduce the sprayer use by 80%. This represents a huge water savings for our restaurant. Right now California has an estimated 60,000 full service restaurants. If each of these restaurants switched to compressed air for pre-cleaning plates and could save even just 250 gallons per day that would equal over 5 billion gallons of water per year. While the current requirement for restaurants to only offer drinking water by request does bring awareness to the issue, it does not represent a major water savings. To illustrate- Each of our guests drink approximately 2 cups of water when they dine in the restaurant. That equals just over 18 gallons per day of drinking water. Over the course of a year we would save around 6,570 gallons of drinking water - compared with a savings of 292,000 by using the compressed air. This is an easy and efficient way for restaurants to save water. If other restaurants across the state would start this practice it would make a real difference with water conservation! #savingwaterblows #californiadrought #waterconservation

A post shared by John Cox (@chefjohncox) on

(h/t CBS SF)

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