News Feature | March 4, 2014

Can Tap Water Curb Drunk Driving?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Free tap water may be a weapon in the fight against drunk driving. 

A bill introduced to the Connecticut state legislature would ensure bar patrons can order free tap water, according to CBS New York. Democratic State Rep. Chris Wright, who introduced the legislation, says drunk driving might be mitigated if tap water were free.

“I think anything we can do to promote safe driving and have as few people on the roads who have been drinking as we can, I think that it’s a minor thing,” Wright said in the news report. “As a way to promote designated driving, if somebody’s willing to do that, I think the least that we can do is let them have a glass of water.”

In the U.K., many bars are already required to serve free tap water. According to the Consumer Council for Water, a group that represents water and sewer ratepayers, pubs and restaurants have to serve free tap water if they also serve alcohol. The aim is to "ensure that customers have access to free tap water so that they can space out their drinks and not get too intoxicated too quickly," the group said.

Here is a version of the legislation that mandated free tap water in the U.K. Back in 2008, before the law was passed, nine out of 10 restaurants did not provide free tap water, according to research cited by The Guardian.

At the other end of the spectrum, a cafe that recently opened its doors in New York City specializes in serving—and charging—for tap water.  

"Not just any tap water, insist the owners of Molecule. They say the water streams through a $25,000 filtering machine that uses ultraviolet rays, ozone treatments and reverse osmosis in a seven-stage processing treatment to create what they call pure H20," the Wall Street Journal reported

In San Francisco, restaurants are not required to offer free tap water, but SF Weekly says there are economic reasons they are unlikely to refuse such a request. 

Can restaurants "legally charge you $1, $3, or even $5 for a glass of tap water? Absolutely. However, it probably wouldn't make much business sense, and that's what keeps them from doing it in the first place," the report said. 

Image credit: "Bar," © 2005 liber, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:

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