More than two dozen Madison-area restaurants will ask for a small donation as servers pour glasses of water this week, which one group said was just the beginning of a push to curb water waste.
Restaurants like Graze in downtown Madison and Rex's Innkeeper in Waunakee will seek $1 from guests as part of World Water Week.
The collections will benefit the Clean Lakes Alliance, which works to clean up Dane County's lakes, said James Tye, the group's vice president.
"We're not telling people, 'Don't drink water,' we're just telling them to be aware that the water that's coming to your table is not free and any water being left on the table is just being tossed away," Tye said.
Tye said he wasn't aware of any Madison restaurants that forced customers to ask for water before bringing it to the table, but said eateries in other cities are doing that.
While this week's effort is limited to an optional donation at 28 restaurants, having water available "upon request" should be standard practice at Madison eateries, Tye said.
Graze's co-owner and executive chef, Tory Miller, said his servers now bring a carafe of water to tables instead of filling each glass.
"We find that it saves water on our end because sometimes you're just filling a glass just to fill it," Miller said.
Miller said he didn't expect to make customers request water in the future.
"We haven't take it there," he said. "For me personally, when I go to a restaurant, I don't like to ask for a glass of water."
Besides wasting water, not drinking a glass with dinner leads to unhealthy people, said Marianne Merrick, a registered dietitian at St. Mary's.
Having to ask for a glass could lead to fewer people drinking water, but they should make up for it at home, she said.
"Most of us tend not to get enough water," she said. "If you're just going out (to eat) once a week and you're not drinking water at the meal -- you have all day to drink water, so I wouldn't worry about it."
Most people should drink between five and eight glasses a day, depending on body weight, Merrick said.
The donation effort at the 28 restaurants runs through Sunday.